What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and How to Deal With It
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects more than 10 million people. If you’re someone that deals with feelings of sadness and depression during the cold months, it’s helpful to understand what the underlying factors are.
Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide with ways to manage the depression and anxiety that comes with SAD. Keep reading to learn more about coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder is depression that is triggered by the changing of the seasons. For most people, it can begin to take place during the fall and continue into the winter.
Some people refer to it as having winter blues, which happens because it becomes colder outside and gets darker earlier than it does during other times of the year. Not only can SAD cause you to become depressed, but it can also affect how you live your daily life and how you complete tasks you’d typically have no problem doing.
SAD symptoms can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are various ways to treat SAD that will help minimize or completely ward off the winter blues. Keep reading to learn how to treat and prevent seasonal affective disorder.
SAD can look like other mental health conditions at first glance, which is why speaking to a mental health professional is essential. SAD differs from major depressive disorder because the depression symptoms are season specific, whereas, in major depression, they are not.
Before diagnosing seasonal affective disorder, it’s essential to understand the symptoms that typically accompany it. The most common symptom is feeling depressed every day. If you are experiencing negative thoughts, severe mood changes, or even depressive episodes that accompany the seasonal changes, you could be experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
Loss of Motivation
Many people report that they feel less motivated to complete various daily tasks in the winter months, and winter depression can make it even worse. Feeling unmotivated can make it challenging to focus on tasks when you do decide to tackle them, increasing your frustration levels.
It’s also not uncommon for people to lose interest in activities they typically enjoy participating in, causing them to withdraw from all social activities entirely. Oversleeping also accompanies depression and can happen at any time.
Some people find they have issues going to sleep, while others feel they are always tired and can’t seem to get enough sleep the night before. If you are experiencing disruptions in your sleep patterns, it may be a symptom of seasonal affective disorder.
Other symptoms include:
- Increased food cravings
- Increased weight gain
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Overall heavy body feeling
That said, let’s dive into some of the causes of SAD.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder
Several causes, such as Vitamin D deficiency, are linked to seasonal affective disorder. Active exposure to Vitamin D, whether through a supplement or sunlight, can boost the natural serotonin levels in the body.
However, during the winter, the amount of sunlight available for people to take in is significantly decreased, which can lead to a decrease in the amount of Vitamin D your body intakes. Another hormonal change triggered by the lack of sunlight during the winter is an increase in your melatonin.
Melatonin has been studied and is shown not only to aid in your sleeping behaviors but also to aid in mood regulation. When your body doesn’t take in the proper amount of sunlight, it can increase the melatonin in your body.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause many people to begin overproducing melatonin. Due to this overproduction, you can start to feel tired and sluggish. Seasonal affective disorder can often lead to increased negative thoughts because you’re more secluded than you would be during other times of the year. In severe cases, it can lead to feelings or thoughts of suicide.
How to Manage SAD
If you’re facing seasonal depression, the good news is that there are ways to treat and prevent it. It might take some trial and error before you find the method of treatment that works for you and your current situation.
Some of the treatment methods you might find need to take place on an ongoing basis, which you can discuss with your primary care physician when the time comes for you to receive a diagnosis of SAD. Here are some ways to treat SAD.
Spending Time Outdoors
Although it will be colder outside, it doesn’t mean you should avoid going out. Several studies show a correlation between getting fresh air and a person’s mental health.
Going outside numerous times throughout the week can aid in the improvement of your mental health. To lessen symptoms of SAD, try to get a little natural light daily.
Light therapy is one of the most commonly used treatments to relieve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. If you can’t get enough natural outdoor light, an artificial light box can do the trick too. Consider getting a light box for your home to prepare for winter. Light boxes are specifically designed to deliver a therapeutic dose of bright light to treat SAD.
Take a Vitamin D Supplement
There’s no way to go outside and tell the sun to shine more, but there are other ways to increase your Vitamin D intake, such as taking a daily supplement. However, not all supplements are made equal.
Therefore, we recommend speaking with your primary care physician to see if there is a specific supplement they recommend.
Regular exercise is a great way to keep your body moving and release endorphins in the winter months. Regular exercise can help regulate sleep patterns which will, in turn, help relieve symptoms.
Get Your Sleep
As the days get shorter in the late fall, our body’s internal clock can get a little out of wack. If you are prone to SAD, getting adequate sleep is one of the best ways to prevent depressive episodes.
Traditional Depression Treatment
Mental health professionals often recommend talk therapy, antidepressant medication, or a combination of both to those suffering from depressive episodes. If you are struggling, talk to a doctor who can help develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
For some people, there is still no relief with traditional treatment methods. TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for depression. TMS therapy uses a device to stimulate areas of the brain responsible for mood regulation.
At Oasis TMS, we use a top-of-the-line, FDA-approved device to direct magnetic energy pulses to the brain’s prefrontal cortex. As a result, transcranial magnetic stimulation can painlessly revitalize areas of the brain responsible for mood control while improving communication within the central nervous system.
TMS trials have been shown to produce lasting, positive effects on brain function in people who have otherwise experienced treatment-resistant depression.
What to do About the Winter Blues?
Winter depression is a seasonal pattern many people experience, and it is essential to know that you are not alone. If you typically experience the winter blues, try some preventive treatments this year. Daily natural sunlight, exercise, and adequate sleep are healthy ways to reduce the symptoms of SAD.
If you are struggling, request an appointment with Oasis TMS today. We would love to help you get back to feeling like yourself again!
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