OT - Women (and Men!) Wednesday
Good morning, STalkers! Are you suffering and SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. For many, it typically starts in late Fall and early Winter.and goes away in Spring or Summer. I'm one of the weird ones - I suffer from SAD in the Summer and come alive in Winter.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Fall and Winter SAD
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
Spring and Summer SAD
Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Agitation or anxiety
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body's internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body's level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men. And SAD occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults. Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Family history. People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
- Having major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
- Living far from the equator. SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.
Treatments and Therapies
There are four major types of treatment for SAD. These may be used alone or in combination.
Antidepressants have proven to be effective for people with SAD, especially those with intense symptoms. Medication requires patience, because it can take several weeks before you begin to feel the effects. It’s also important not to stop taking the medication if you feel better. Consult with your doctor before you change your dosage, and let him or her know if you experience any side effects.
- Light Therapy
Phototherapy involves exposing oneself to light via a special box or lamp. This device produces similar effects to natural light, triggering chemicals in your brain that help regulate your mood. This treatment has proven effective especially for those who experience the winter version of SAD. Don’t make an impulse buy on the Internet though, as it’s important to consult with your doctor first. You want to make sure you’ve purchased an effective and safe device.
Talk therapy can be an invaluable option for those with SAD. A psychotherapist can help you identify patterns in negative thinking and behavior that impact depression, learn positive ways of coping with symptoms, and institute relaxation techniques that can help you restore lost energy.
- Vitamin D
At present, vitamin D supplementation by itself is not regarded as an effective SAD treatment. The reason behind its use is that low blood levels of vitamin D were found in people with SAD. The low levels are usually due to insufficient dietary intake or insufficient exposure to sunshine. However, the evidence for its use has been mixed. While some studies suggest vitamin D supplementation may be as effective as light therapy, others found vitamin D had no effect.