What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a form of depression that usually occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and shorter daylight hours. According to the National Institute of Health data, this disorder impacts about 5% of adults in the U.S. annually.  Telltale symptoms of SAD include plummeting energy, weight gain, depression and mood swings. It can be overwhelming and may disrupt activities of daily living.

 

Tips to survive the winter blues:

  • Try a light box: If you suffer from mild winter blues, a light box may help.  It is meant to supplement actual daylight exposure when the days are shorter and darker.  You can set your box to emit a set amount of “happy” light every day.
  • Get outside: It’s vital that you get outside as much as much as possible in the winter.  Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is best absorbed through the skin.
  • Maintain activity: Daily exercise will not only help you stay fit – it will also lift your spirits due to endorphins released during exercise.
  • Stick to a schedule: Establish and stay on a regular schedule when it comes to sleep, physical activity, and eating.  This will help to ensure your circadian rhythms stay balanced. These 24-hour rhythms respond primarily to light and darkness.
  • Eat for better hormone balance: In addition to your circadian rhythms, the hormone melatonin affects your sleep-wake schedule, your mood, your energy levels, and the risk of SAD.  According to research from the University of Texas, certain foods i.e. almonds, walnuts, and lettuce naturally promote sleep and are recommend consuming in the evening.

Who may be at Risk?

SAD is more common in females than males. Symptoms typically start between the ages of 18 and 30, however it can begin at any age.

 

Treatment

Do not delay seeing your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that are not typical. Earlier treatment may provide the best outcomes. Your doctor may recommend antidepressant medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, light therapy, or a combination of treatment.