As days become shorter and nights become longer, you might experience a downturn in your mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs at the change of season, usually through the fall and winter when we have less exposure to the sun. Researchers believe that reduced daylight hours cause a disruption in your circadian rhythm (i.e., body clock), a reduction in serotinin (one of the “feel good” brain chemicals, and a reduction in Vitamin D production. Coupled with the stress of the holidays and holiday eating, fall and winter can be very challenging to someone with SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
According to the Cleveland Clinic you may have SAD if you experience any of the following:
- Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate
- Limbs feeling heavy
- Loss of interest in usual activities, including withdrawing from social activities
- Sleeping more
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
If you have a recurrence of these symptoms for 2 years, your healthcare provider might diagnose you with SAD.
Effective Treatments for SAD
Studies show that among the most effective ways to treat SAD include:
- Light therapy – using a UV-blocking light for 30 minutes a day, preferably in the morning. Make an effort to spend time outdoors and get more sunshine.
- Medication – with severe symptoms, you may need an SSRI, a type of antidepressant that helps you to balance and more effectively use the brain chemcials to increase your sense of well-being.
- Vitamin D – studies show that this important vitamin can help improve mood and energy levels.
- Talk therapy – contact a mental health counselor to help you overcome negative self-talk and deal with uncomfortable feelings.
- Exercise – numerous studies prove the effectiveness of exercise in helping to combat depression.
- Healthy diet – especially during the holiday season, it is difficult to eat healthy all the time, but here are some tips for navigating holiday eating. Also, as we learn more and more about the importance of gut health and the brain, it is important that we be diligent about eating in a healthy way.
The good news is that you can treat Seasonal Affective Disorder successfully. If you think you or a loved one may have SAD, contact a mental health provider to get help.