As the air gets cooler, the leaves will change colors and begin to fall. The days will become shorter and nights longer. Many people enjoy this time of year. Fall means fun fashions and everything pumpkin. Then comes winter holidays, snow and sledding.
Despite all the great things to look forward to during this time, many suffer from Seasonal Depression. Seasonal Depression also known as Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD). It is exactly what it sounds like—depression that has a direct link to the ever-changing seasons and lack of sun.
How to Fight Seasonal Depression
Statistics for Seasonal Affective Depression vary, according to Mental Health America. SAD affects about five percent of the U.S population, which is over 15 million people per year. Out of every five people affected, four of them will be women.
Here, we will break down Seasonal Affective Depression. You will discover who’s at risk for SAD, natural treatments, what medications are common, along with an overview on coping with the disorder.
Although SAD is common, many write off the disease as the winter blues, but this is a mistake. Unfortunately, SAD can become worse, depending on the severity— if left untreated.
Signs and symptoms of the disease range within a variety of symptoms. These include, feeling sluggish, agitated, feeling hopelessness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating. It can even cause loss of interest in activities and suicidal thoughts. Some of the SAD symptoms overlap with winter blues symptoms. Moodiness and feeling lethargic are quite common in the winter blues as well but they are not the same. One major difference with SAD is that it's recurring and will hinder your ability to function and enjoy life.
What Causes SAD?
According to the Mayo Clinic, causes of SAD are generally unknown. Possible causes are your biological clock, drops in serotonin or the disruption of melatonin.
How do these Causes Affect Sad?
The Mayo Clinic states that your biological clock is affected by less sunlight. This lack of natural light which in return leads to depression.
Serotonin: Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects your mood. Less sunlight means lower or unbalanced serotonin, causing feelings of depression.
Melatonin: When the seasons change, the body’s melatonin levels become unbalanced. Melatonin levels play a major role in your sleep patterns and moods which can lead to depression.
Who’s at Risk?
The disease affects more women than men and usually rears its ugly head between the ages of 20 and 30. Those who have a family history of SAD or other forms of depression are even more at risk.
What are the Treatments?
SAD may go away on its own once the seasons change but for some, dealing with it can become unbearable. Treatments can range from natural remedies, antidepressants, psychotherapy (talk therapy) and, light therapy.
Natural Remedies include exercising five days a week for at least 30 minutes and eating a well-balanced diet. Although most of our nutrients should come from diet. Taking supplements can help with receiving nutrients too. Some researchers believe that taking natural supplements that are rich with Omega 3s can help with depression.
Omega Fatty Acids
Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil has high levels of the essential Omega-3 (ALA) fatty acid. Recent studies show promise for plant based Omega-3 as a support for clinical depression. Insulin resistance and depression are associated in many patients. It's thought that insulin activity plays a role in serotonergic activity by boosting the amount of tryptophan in the brain.
As mentioned earlier, serotonin is a brain chemical that affects your mood. When serotonin levels drop, many problems can surface and depression is one of them. Researchers believe that plant based Omega-3's may increase insulin sensitivity- which could make it an important addition to the treatment of depression.
Staying involved with friends and cultivating relationships are also important for fighting depression. Starting your day early, as soon as the sun rises will help. Being exposed to as much natural light as possible will also ward off the recurring seasonal disorder.
Other treatments include prescribed medication from your physician. A common medication for SAD is, an extended-release version of the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin.) Other antidepressant medications may help with the disorder. According to Mayo Clinic, it's best medication before the onset of the disorder each year.
Psychotherapy is a common treatment. This is a simple form of talk therapy. It's a kind of cognitive behavior therapy which means it helps identify negative thoughts and behaviors that may make SAD worse. Learning new ways to cope and ditch old behaviors will help you move forward and feel better.
Light therapy is also a known treatment for SAD. Light affects your brain's biological clock. Every day, our bodies have a pattern- feeling energized in the morning and sleepy at night. That's the circadian rhythm. Lack of light and colder temperatures can throw off this rhythm, which is a big part of why SAD makes us feel bad.
Full spectrum natural light may have antidepressant effects. It's easy to buy full spectrum light bulbs that could help you feel better in winter and fall. To receive the most benefit, let the light shine onto your face from about two feet away.
Light therapy starts with one session that lasts 10-15 min per day and may increase to 30-45 min depending on your needs. Doctors may increase your therapy to twice daily and well into spring, depending on how the body responds.
Although you may always have SAD, you may be able to fight your symptoms using some of our tips. That way you can spend more time enjoying your life versus feeling sad—pun intended.