Advice for those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you find yourself feeling low at the same time every year, it’s possible you suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  In most cases, SAD comes along during the dark, cold days of winter.  Fortunately, there are ways to manage SAD and feel better.

Wintertime blues. Generally speaking, SAD sufferers experience symptoms during winter months, although a small portion of sufferers struggle during summertime.  When the seasons change, symptoms subside.  Because of the correlation between symptoms and the seasons, SAD is believed to be connected to changing amounts of daylight.  Our internal clocks can get off-kilter and body chemistry is altered, causing the symptoms associated with SAD.

According to Medical News Today, some symptoms of SAD include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression or despair
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weight gain
  • Crying
  • Fatigue and increase in sleeping
  • Reduced libido
  • Irritability
  • Indecision
  • Moodiness

The summertime version of SAD may include agitation, weight loss, lowered appetite, depression and insomnia.

Who gets SAD? Women are more likely than men to suffer with SAD, although men tend to experience more severe symptoms.  Usually the farther you live from the equator the more likely you are to suffer with SAD, and those with a history of depression are more likely to get the disorder.  If a family member suffers with the disorder, your risk for SAD increases.

When to get help. Many people may feel a bit sluggish during winter months, and you may be wondering if your symptoms reflect SAD.  If your symptoms are interfering with your daily life, some experts advise seeking professional help. Talk to your family physician about potential therapy options.  If you or someone you love is trying to manage symptoms with substances or experiencing thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately.

Stop suffering. SAD is a treatable disorder.  If you or a loved one suffers with SAD, it’s important to find ways to manage symptoms.

Therapies. Thankfully, there are several methods for combating the symptoms of SAD.  If someone’s symptoms are impacting the ability to live a normal day-to-day life, light therapy is often recommended.  With this treatment, the SAD sufferer sits next to a special light for 30 to 90 minutes per day.   Another option is a special light that gradually wakes SAD sufferers, simulating dawn.  These light therapies are felt to help restore the body’s natural rhythms.

Another treatment option is prescription medication.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the FDA approved the use of two antidepressants for treating SAD: bupropion and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).  It may be necessary to try several antidepressants to find one that is effective and there may be side effects in taking some medications.  Concerns should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist.

If you prefer to avoid prescription medication, you could consider a supplement like CBD oil, or cannabidiol. More research continues to show this supplement provides needed relief of anxiety and depression. CBD oil is not a cure-all, as some people claim, but, as Remedy Review explains, “The benefit of introducing cannabinoids into your body is that they can help your body better regulate itself, or achieve more balance.” Of course, this form of treatment is still considered somewhat controversial. And before starting any sort of supplement, you should always speak to your doctor.

If your symptoms are relatively mild, you may benefit from increasing your activity level.  Working out boosts feel-good chemicals in your brain, and some professionals feel you may be able to manage SAD symptoms with an appropriate fitness program.

Some SAD sufferers benefit from behavioral therapy or adding vitamin D, and some people do best with a combination of therapies.

SAD doesn’t have to control your life. By acknowledging your condition, you put yourself in a position of power over it. Talk to your doctor. Together, you can find ways to manage your symptoms that work for you. It will take time, but you can beat SAD this and every season.


This guest post was submitted by Kimberly Hayes, chief blogger at PublicHealthAlert.info and author of Holistic Recovery: Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Addiction Treatments.

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