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Everyone gets the blues from time to time, but if you’re feeling down because the skies are greyer and the climate is more wet along with shorter days then it’s a different situation. No one is thrilled about summer coming to an end and moving into fall and winter, yet some individuals take it much worse than others and it really works to the detriment of their mental health. That’s seasonal affective disorder, and it provides a perfect acronym with S.A.D. because that’s exactly how many of these individuals feel. Some also refer to it as seasonal depression, and it’s helpful to know seasonal affective disorder symptoms.
There’s a lot of different layers to this mental health condition, but what’s at the very root of it is sunlight – or an increasing lack of it in the case of seasonal affective disorder. At the root of the problems is the fact that some people have a more balanced brain and more solid circadian rhythm patterns that adjust well to the decreasing amount of sunlight in the later months of the year. Other people aren’t so fortunate, and their biological shortcomings mean these changes result in less serotonin circulating in their brain.
And if you’re familiar with just one of the four major neurotransmitters in the brain, it’s probably serotonin. It’s known to be the ‘feel good’ chemical and long story short if you don’t have enough of it up there, you’re going to be feeling down and the furthest thing from enthusiastic about life. Serotonin deficiencies are among the main causes of depression, and there’s a lot of common ground between SAD and depression. So much so that short-term use of effective depression medications is often the best treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
What we’ll do here is look at seasonal affective disorder symptoms in greater detail and then conclude by sharing a simple, inexpensive, and easy way to add to the effectiveness of your seasonal affective disorder treatment if you’re using medication.
As mentioned, at the root of seasonal affective disorder is the lack of exposure to natural light. Most people aren’t affected too much by the shorter days, but some people are predisposed to be very affected by it. Before we get any further into the topic, it’s important to note that some individuals have a reverse form of SAD where they get seasonal affective disorder during summer months. This isn’t common, but it is possible and the same seasonal affective disorder symptoms will be seen.
Given that so much of this condition is related to the supply of sunlight, it makes sense that people that live further from the equatorial areas of the globe suffer from SAD more often than those living closer to them. It’s also true that the occurrence of this disorder becomes less common with age. Women tend to get seasonal affective disorder more often than men do, and as is the case with so many mental health disorders it is something that you can inherit from your family. If one of your parents experienced SAD at some point in their life, it’s likely you will too. Individuals who do see a doctor to discuss their depressed mood because of fall should expect the possibility that the doctor may want to check for hypothyroidism first, because some of the same symptoms apply and treating hypothyroidism is very important.
Seasonal affective disorders symptoms may be mild for some people while others will find them so strong that they are debilitating. The person may feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious and these feelings may persist or come and go. Another common one is to lose interest in usual activities, and they may also have stronger food cravings, especially for carbohydrates. Weight gain from seasonal affective disorder can be a part of it too, as can hypersomnia – which is sleeping too much. Some people who’ve experienced SAD say it also took away their ability to concentrate the same way.
Most people have their seasonal affective disorder symptoms come on in September or October, and they persist until April or May. That’s many months of feeling down, and it’s something that people shouldn’t have to put up with. Effective medications for SAD mean they don’t have to.
Right, we’re nearing the end of this one and we promised to share a tip with you that can improve seasonal affective disorder treatment outcomes. Artificial sunlight lamps are available all over the place and they’re not too expensive. Light therapy for SAD works well, and often all the person needs to do is spend 15 minutes in front of one of them in the morning before leaving for work. There are smaller ones that you can get for a desktop, but the larger freestanding units work better. They won’t cure you of seasonal affective disorder symptoms, but they will make them less severe.