While not always taken seriously by some, Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD) is a serious mental health issue that many will suffer from this upcoming winter. There are a number of steps that can be taken to decrease it's effects.
As the winter gathers pace, and the weather forecasts warn of one of the coldest Christmas’s on record, this time of year also heralds the return of Seasonal Affective disorder. A greatly misunderstood condition, SAD, as it is known is often taken more lightly than it should be. Its symptoms are often mistakenly perceived as a reactive response to an environment of dark evenings, cloudy skies and a loss of the joys of the summer. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact as a clinical disorder SAD is classed as a major depressive illness.
Reduction of sunlight triggers symptoms of depression
Seasonal Affective disorder is not a reaction to the environment. We can all feel grumpy when we open the curtains to find the landscape bear and colourless and torrential rain has set in for the day. SAD is a clinical disorder. In other words the brain is responding to the decrease in sunlight in the winter and autumn months. The sufferer has no active control over this. The precise way in which less sunlight triggers major depression is not known, but there is reason to believe that changes in the production of the hormone Melatonin may reduce the activity of key neurotransmitters in the brain, like Serotonin. Medical practitioners have long been aware of the activity of serotonin in treatment of depression and anxiety. Sufferers of SAD are more sensitive to the changes in sunlight.
As all our moods become a little lower in the winter months the vast majority of seasonal Affective Disorder cases get missed. So patients often do not access the treatment which is available. However as much as the Symptoms of SAD are unique, they are also mirrored in most depressive illnesses: low mood, inability to concentrate, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, low energy, tearfulness, low self-esteem and in severe cases – suicidal ideation.
Treatments for SAD
Luckily there is treatment for this disorder. A doctor can prescribe medications, but the most powerful resource is Bright Light Therapy. This treatment uses full-spectrum bulbs which mimic the light provided by the sun. The bulbs are cased in a special housing to prevent tanning and are used for a short period each day. Exposure to these wavelengths of light that are in short supply can therefore be increased during the fall and winter months, and reverse the neurochemical changes associated with seasonal affective disorder.
Have you been affected by seasonal affective disorder? How did you find out you had a problem and what treatment works for you? The Life works community welcomes you to leave a comment and help others who are members of our blog.