SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
NOT YOUR AVERAGE WINTER BLUES
BY: ANASTASIA E. TSOUROUPAKIS
If you are reading this now CONGRADULATIONS!!! YOU SURVIVED BLUE MONDAY!!! also known as the third Monday of January, when the credit card statements start arriving and the holiday endorphin rush is waning. However, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD it won’t disapper at midnight. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association or CMHA, SAD is a “…type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring” (1).
Those who are diagnosed with SAD suffer from moodiness, anxiety, feelings of sadness, apathy, increase in appetite (particularly for carbohydrates) which then results in weight gain, loss of concentration and focus, and sleeping more but not feeling rested . Those afflicted with SAD are more commonly women, between the ages of 15-55, and who live in countries that receive minimal amounts of daylight during the winter months.
Don’t we all feel this way at some time or another during the season? Don’t we all get the winter blues? Definitely! However, most people can shake off these feelings by exercising in the outdoors, or surrounding themselves with friends etc. If you are diagnosed with SAD however, this is not possible since the triggers are less psychological and more chemical. Sufferers of this disorder more often than not, have disrupted and inconsistent sleeping patterns which result in the decreased production of melatonin as well as, a decrease in the production of serotonin as a result of limited exposure to daylight. Melatonin and serotonin are chemicals produced by our brains and are responsible for regulating our moods and emotions.
The good news is all of these symptoms will disappear with the advent of spring and the increased daylight hours. Unfortunately SAD sufferers still have to make it through these dark months and rather than move to a country situated closer to the equator, many look to Light Box Therapy to help them with their symptoms. This treatment is exactly as it sounds, it’s a box that sits on a table or desk and emits a light mimicking sunlight. Health practitioners who prescribed Light Box Therapy maintain that their patients see an improvement with as little as 15 minutes of exposure twice daily. This treatment however is not suggested if you suffer from any kind of light sensitivity.
Another approach to treating SAD is Negative ION Therapy, where negatively charged particles (which in nature are created by the sun, wind and moving water) are created by a Negative Ion Generator. If enough of these particles are discharged into a room it is said they purify and freshen the air, alleviating SAD symptoms.
A third approach to treating SAD is with prescription antidepressants such as Zoloft and Prozac. This however is something that for most should be considered as a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted, particularly since prescription drugs bring with them a whole host of other problems greater than the affliction itself.
If you know someone who suffers from SAD or has the occasional bout of the winter blues here are some things you can do to help:
- Try to spend more time with the person, even though they may not seem to want any company.
- Help them with their treatment plan. Gently ask if they have had their light therapy etc., for the day.
- Remind them that the spring and summer are only a season away. Tell them that what their feeling is not permanent. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Go outside with them and do something, particularly on those days the sun is out. Exercise and sunlight is key to alleviating these symptoms.
Stay warm and stay positive spring is just around the corner!!!
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Blaszczak, Jessica, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder”, www.psychcentral.com/lib/10-things-you-dont-know-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/0002.