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SAD: Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

By Dr. Carrie Jones Expert HERWriter
 
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SAD: Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder? 3 5 5
what you can do if you have seasonal affective disorder or SAD
Design Pics/PhotoSpin

The holidays are approaching quickly but so are the long dark days of winter.

For many, this darkness creates havoc on mood and motivation as depression sets in and seasonal affective disorder takes over.

SAD is real and typically occurs when summer comes to an end and the fall season begins. Many notice a downward spiral on cold, damp days and an improvement with the sun.

Typical symptoms include low mood, higher anxiety, sadness, feelings similar to grief, the desire to sleep a lot, as well as a loss of motivation and joy.

When the weather changes and people feel the warmth and brightness of the sun, these symptoms often dissipate and people report better mood, higher motivation and overall feeling more happy.

It can happen at any age and affects women more than men, however men are not immune.

People commonly complain of SAD especially after moving from a southern sunny climate to a darker, more northern climate. It is usually the reason people become "snowbirds," wintering in warm environments.

Treatment is varied and involves recognizing SAD early to be prepared.

First, remember to find the light! There are a number of "happy" lights that involve using bulbs or boxes to mimic the brightness of a bright sunny day. The light registers through the eyes to the pineal gland in the brain in order to ward off the winter blues.

Use this light daily for maximum benefit. Put it on the counter, the table or the desk and enjoy the benefits through the fall and winter.

Second, seek help before the depression becomes too much. Some people need an antidepressant medication or natural alternatives such as 5HTP, SAMe or St. John’s Wort until the spring to help them through.

Consider counseling and find ways to motivate yourself when it is cold, dark and raining outside and exercise or social gatherings seem like a chore.

Third, get vitamin D testing. Research shows that levels less than 30 ng/ml are too low and for many, proper vitamin D levels help with SAD.

Fourth, consider a vacation to a sunny spot.

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

The best treatment for a disorder that is caused by lack of light is...light. If you don't get enough of light and sunshine, you can effectively use bright light therapy and usually it brings great telief within a week.
The trick is knowing how to choose the right SAD light therapy box. This is an article that will help you with that: http://www.light-therapy-reviews.net/light-therapy-for-sad/

November 13, 2012 - 10:39am
Susan Cody HERWriter Guide

Hi Dr. Carrie

This is something I suffer from - a rather acute case for about five months a year.

I do two hours of phototherapy per day, take medications only when necessary, exercise, eat well, make sure I get enough Vitamin D and yes, have switched summer vacations to winter vacation in the sun.

Nonetheless, I am often rendered incapable of getting out of bed or something as simple as brushing my teeth.

Some have "winter blues" - maybe something like "baby blues" only the winter blues last far longer. But some end up with a deep depression, just like baby blues can quickly develop into PPD for some women.

It can be a terrible, life-changing affliction and for some, it can take moving to another part of the country or out of the country in order to escape.

Thanks for this very timely post, I think many Northerners suffer from SAD in some form, the world over,  and for others it becomes a lot more serious. I encourage everyone to reach out for help if it starts seriously affecting their physical and mental health.

Best,

Susan

November 12, 2012 - 1:34pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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