Monday, May 28, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the start of the warm weather and all the amazing fun in the sun I enjoyed over this Memorial Day weekend, I realized how amazing being outside in the sun makes me feel.  With that realization, I thought that a blog about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) would be appropriate.  

SAD is something that I do suffer from but not to a very large extent, there are others that suffer from it much worse than I do.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depression that occurs in the fall and winter.  SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight found during the winter months due to the shortened days.  This lack of sunlight is believed to increase the body’s production of melatonin.  This increase in melatonin causes some symptoms of depression.  Symptoms of this disorder include: tiredness, fatigue, depression, crying spells, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, poor sleep, decreased activity level and overeating which is associated with weight gain.  Basically, it includes many of the symptoms of depression.   Symptoms typically begin in the fall and end in the spring.  

This disorder is said to occur in 5% of adults with up to 20% of individuals having some symptoms of the disorder but not enough to meet the diagnostic criteria.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is four times more common in women than in men and the average age of onset is 23.

Light therapy is a popular treatment for individuals experiencing severe Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Light therapy uses artificial indoor lighting- such as a light box- which creates light of far more intensity than say a living room lamp.  Scientists say that it is not the type of light (i.e. artificial vs. natural sunlight).  It is however, the amount and intensity of the light. Researchers have found that bright lights change the chemicals in the brain, how is not yet known. Medication, diet changes, psychotherapy, new coping mechanisms and even a vacation to someplace warm and sunny are other forms of treatment.

How does warm weather affect mood?

On the reverse end of things, how does the warm weather affect mood?  Warm weather is said to boost the mood.  Researchers at the University of Michigan recommend spending at least 30 minutes outside on days that are warm and sunny in order to see an improved mood.  They also found that spending all of your time inside when the weather is sunny and enjoyable outside actually resulted in a decreased mood.  

How does the weather affect me?

The winter months definitely have an effect on me and my symptoms.  I tend to become more depressed in the winter- have trouble getting out of bed, easily cry, irritable, etc.  This winter was a completely different story because I was experiencing symptoms of mania for other reasons and required a medication change. However- typically the winter means I will experience some sort of depression.  I have to push myself a lot harder in the winter.

The warm weather works wonders for me.  It puts me in such a better overall mood.  Being outside in the sun feels so great and so refreshing to me.  I love the spring and I love the summer, I love how great the sunlight makes me feel.

So what am I saying?

It’s warm! It’s sunny!  Get out there and enjoy the warm weather.  Whether you have a psychiatric diagnosis or not- that doesn’t matter! Everyone can benefit from the warm and sunny weather!
However, stay safe!  Don’t stay out in extreme heat for too long! Drink lots of water when you are out in the sun and wear sunscreen!

For those of you on psychotropic medications like myself- especially anti-psychotics, take special notice of your body’s reaction to the heat.  Those medications make our bodies less capable of regulating our body temperature.  Therefore you must pay special attention to the signs your body is giving you and drink plenty of fluids.  Drink twice as many fluids as your friends and family that are not on psychotropic medications. The medications also make our skin more sensitive to the sun which results in an easier sunburn- so wear sunblock, please!

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and enjoy the warm weather and your improved upon mood!

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those that mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind” –Dr. Seuss 

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

-Kissing Stigma Goodbye-

No comments: