Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As we are in the peak days of winter and have lesser and lesser natural light, it’s important to talk about SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are two types of SAD namely fall onset SAD and spring onset SAD. The fall version usually affects an individual in late fall or early winter and the spring version affects in early spring although it is less common. You need to know that SAD affects more than half a million Americans annually.

Fall onset SAD is characterized by increased need to sleep, increased appetite with carb craving, weight gain, irritability, interpersonal difficulties and feeling of heaviness in arms and legs. These changes affects other aspects of your life, and therefore should be recognized and addressed. No studies have proven the cause of this condition, but there is evidence to suggest the role of serotonin (a neurotransmitter).

The incidence of fall onset SAD is significantly greater in higher latitudes compared to that in the lower latitudes. Decreased daylight time is therefore a strong predisposing factor. In the US, the prevalence of SAD ranges from 9.7% in New Hampshire to 1.4% in Florida. SAD affects both women and men. The average age of people who develop SAD for the first time in 23 years. People of all ages can develop seasonal affective disorder. Fall onset SAD starts in late fall or early winter and most symptoms do tend to improve during the spring and summer months. The symptoms are worse during the coldest months.

Light therapy is helpful for some patients with fall onset SAD. This can be achieved with a light box, dawn simulators or using a computer-controlled heliostat to reflect sunlight into the windows of a home.

Some people with SAD may have immediate response to light therapy though typically it may take 2-4 days to see a positive response. It may take longer and yet some may need other modes of therapy including melatonin and anti-depressants.

It is also helpful to exercise regularly to release the feel-good endorphins and eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Always discuss your symptoms with your physician before starting any treatments.