Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression related to seasonal changes. For most people, seasonal affective disorder tends to happen around fall and through the winter months, making them feel drained, fatigued, less productive. Usually seasonal affective disorder goes away during the sunnier times of the year like spring and summer.
· Losing interest in activities that you once found pleasurable
· Having low energy
· Difficulty concentrating
· Feelings of hopelessness and guilt
· Sleeping problems- either sleeping long periods of time and still feeling fatigued or not getting much sleep at all
· Feeling down/depressed throughout the day
· Changes in eating patterns- overeating, especially craving foods rich in carbs
While we do not yet know the specific cause of SAD, we do know that there are a few things that can play a role.
Serotonin Levels: The reduction in sunlight during the colder months, triggers a reduction in something called serotonin, a chemical our nerve cells produce that helps with reducing depression and anxiety. It also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.
Changes in Circadian Rhythm and Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone your brain produces in response to darkness. The changes in season can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm and your melatonin production, causing you to experience changes in mood and sleep.
What Can I Do?
If you experience seasonal affective disorder, you’re not alone. There are quite a few lifestyle modifications that can be done to assist with reducing the symptoms. If you’re looking for more natural options to assist with symptoms, sunlight will be your best friend during this time. Try to get outdoors, take long walks, get exercise, open the windows and let some light in. Sunlight will help with boosting your serotonin levels and can help with stabilizing your circadian rhythm.
Light Therapy: Light therapy (also called phototherapy) is considered a great first line option for clients with fall onset SAD. While research is limited on light therapy, many people with SAD have reported benefit from it’s use. Light therapy general involves purchasing a lightbox (there are many really good options available on Amazon) and sitting under it for about 30 minutes a day.
Therapy: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can also be a beneficial option for clients with SAD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent tool to help you identify your triggers, reactions to those triggers, and learn healthy coping mechanisms to assist during the seasonal change.
Medications: Depending on the severity of symptoms, anti-depressants may be needed. While it can take a few weeks to notice the effects, these medications work well to help reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder as well as prevent the onset.
Sometimes combination therapy may be needed to help reduce the symptoms and prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder.
Visit PeridotPrimaryCare.com or call our office to set up an telehealth virtual visit appointment to discuss your symptoms and what treatment(s) may be right for you.