Monday, October 28, 2013

It's SAD Time!

It’s that time of the year again; SAD time!!! SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The acronym of SAD couldn't be more appropriate!

Seasonal affective disorder is a depression that some individuals get every year around in the fall and winter months. SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight due to the shortened days during the fall and winter months . This lack of sunlight is believed to increase the body’s production of melatonin. The increase in melatonin causes some individuals to have 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 also associated with weight gain. It basically includes many of the typical symptoms of depression. The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person, ranging from mild to severe. They 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. The light box creates light that has much more intensity than a typical household 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.

Vacation to someplace warm and sunny to treat my SAD? Yes, please! Sign me up! Will insurance cover that? ;-)

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 resulted in a decreased mood.  

The winter months definitely have a negative impact on me and on my symptoms. I tend to become more depressed in the winter. This leads me to have trouble getting out of bed, to cry easily, become irritable, have little motivation to do things I normally would enjoy as well as simple household chores, feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, and so on. The winter months typically equate to some sort of depression for me. I have to push myself a lot harder in the winter to accomplish basic day-to-day tasks than I do in the warmer months.

The warm weather usually works wonders for me. It puts me in  a much better overall mood. Being outside in the sun feels so great and so refreshing to me. I love how great the sunlight makes me feel. This past summer was different than most summers are for me. I was dealing with some depression this past summer. The summer sun just wasn't enough to bring me out the sadness that life situations had caused. The sun is surely not a miracle worker. However, it can bring an individual's mood up many cases.

Do you find yourself more down in the winter months? Is it harder to get motivated when the hours of daylight lessen? Do you feel more tired than usual during the winter months? Do you feel more irritable?

Individuals with affective disorders such as Bipolar Disorder and Depression have a higher likelihood of developing SAD. I read that as many as 20% of individuals with SAD have Bipolar Disorder. The winter blues that you may be used to getting every year could be more than just winter blues! You should talk to your doctor if you feel like the winter months bring you down!

Thank you for reading! Until next time...
Sara Breidenstein
Kissing Stigma Goodbye 

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