Conditions

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Bringing Light to a Darkness Disorder

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Do you find yourself struggling with depression year after year when the winter months hit? Or do you feel agitated and restless every summer? For you the “winter blues” and/or “summer angst” may feel unmanageable, sending your emotional and physical health into a tailspin during specific seasonal months.

If this describes you, then you may be struggling with a very real disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and have cause to seek help from medical professionals and/or alter your lifestyle.

Definition and Causes

SAD is a psychological condition resulting in depression, linked with either the winter or summer seasons. Although the specific causes of SAD are unknown, the disorder most often affects women, adolescents, and young adults.

Although the causes are not fully understood, the Mayo Clinic explains that SAD most likely stems from three factors all impacted by sunlight: (1) your biological clock (circadian rhythm), (2) your serotonin level (neurotransmitter dictating mood), and (3) your melatonin level (hormone regulating mood and sleep patterns). A change in any of these three factors can lead to depression that can be severe.

Diagnosis

In order to be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet three criteria outlined by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • You experience depression two years in a row during the same season.
  • The depression only lasts during that specific season.
  • No other factor leading to depression can be blamed.

Treatment

Common treatment for SAD can include:

  • Light therapy
  • Maintaining a healthy diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables
  • Regular exercise to relieve stress and anxiety
  • More exposure to sunlight
  • Therapy with a trained professional
  • Medication

Perhaps the most well known remedy is light therapy (phototherapy) in which a person is exposed to artificial light under the direction of a doctor. According to Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms, “To determine the best time for light therapy, you need to know about a person’s individual circadian rhythm.” A self-assessment tool is available on the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website, offering insights about personal circadian rhythms.

Have you or someone you love been affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What has helped? Share in the comments below.

Comments (1)

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Sirreal the truth Dec 11, 2014 6:45pm
I got a divorse about 10 years ago and went into a depression were I lost 50 pounds in two months. I was 200 pounds before and after I was 140, But the thing about it was I did even know I was in a depression till some years later when a married couple that I knew from child hood and how kids I grow up with sat me down and talked to me and really opened my eyes on how the lord could help me if I just preyed and asked him to show me. So I toke there advise and preyed once then did it again and that led to more and more times. Now I prey ever chance I can weather its along one or not it don't matter it helps and it still does. So If I ever see them people again I will thank them. So in closeing there is a light at the end of the tunnel of depression.