Seasonal Affective Disorder

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SAD usually begins, in the Northern Hemisphere, around November reaching its worst point for sufferers in January and February. It is caused when the shorter days of winter reduce the amount of sunlight to the retina. The lack of sun causes the body’s level of serotonin to decrease while increasing the level of melatonin, which in turn causes seasonal depression. SAD symptoms disappear in spring, and many sufferers may experience a short period of hyperactivity or hypermania when the light begins to increase

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Appetite change – craving for sweet and starchy food (chocolate, pasta, bread)
Sleep disruption sleeping at odd times or for long periods of time
Difficulty in waking up (where this not the norm for you)
Weight gain
Fatigue all day no matter how much rest
Lack of energy and lethargy
Little or no sex drive
Mood swings
Lack of concentration
Inability to make decisions
Increased PMS in women
Withdrawal from social contact
Unfounded anxiety
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Thoughts of death and/or suicide

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD can significantly improve with the use of light therapy, and some hospitals now have walk in clinics with light boxes for people with SAD. Light boxes have been an effective solution for as many as 80% of sufferers with improvements occurring in as little as four days of use. Light therapy should be the first treatment for SAD. If this does not work your Doctor may recommend antidepressants but do let your doctor know you want to try light therapy first (sometimes it may not be possible because of retinal disease or because your health authority does not support light therapy treatment). For people with milder versions of the SAD symptoms or a bad case of winter blues we have compiled a list of activities and treatments (costing nothing, or very little, to £100.00) that may help dispel some of the winter gloom

Ways to beat the winter blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

1. Increase Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Research has shown these to be effective in alleviating mild depression and symptoms of SAD. Flax seed oil and fish oil are the best sources.
2. Light up your life. Spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight can be really helpful. Studies have shown that an hour in the sunlight is as affective as 2 and half hours under a bright artificial light.
3. Get moving. Do something to reduce your stress and improve your endomorphic levels – walking, swimming, cycling or regular and moderate aerobic exercise.
4. Brighten Up. Keep your curtains or blinds open throughout the day and cut back any foliage that blocks light from your windows.
5. Buy a negative ioniser. Research in light therapy has also shown that SAD sufferers may benefit from negative ionisers.
6. Dawn simulation. Some people, especially those that need to wake in the morning when it is still dark may benefit from lamps that simulate a slow, gradual sunrise, in the final hours of sleep. The light levels are much lower than those used in bright light therapy and the units are much cheaper to purchase. People who have used these lamps say they are extremely effective, one user told us ‘after about a week I really felt my depression lift, and felt much more alert in the morning’.
7. Buy or rent a light box. Light boxes can be bought for as little as £100 and, in the UK, are now VAT free. It is possible to hire light boxes and the SAD association rents boxes to members. See our resources section at the end of this article for details.
8. Change your diet. Eat a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables. with soybeans and soy products, brown rice, millet, and bens. Try to keep to a low fat diet and cut down on protein and red meat.
9. Cut out or down on caffeine and alcohol, switch to herbal teas. SAD sufferers often crave caffeine.
10. Cut down or out refined sugars
11. Try eliminating wheat from your diet
12. Watch your vitamins and minerals. Take daily magnesium and B complex vitamins. A banana smoothie every morning is a great way to ensure you are getting the magnesium you need during the winter too.
13. Take Vitamin D3. D3 is believed to enhance positive affect in patients suffering from winter blues. D3 helps in the utilisation of calcium, phosphorus and in the assimilation of Vitamin A. A dose of 400 to 800 IU per day is recommended, higher dosages should only be taken under the supervision of a professional health practitioner

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1 Comment

  1. Rosaleen Ginty
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I suffer with Clinical Depression & I’m on Venlafaxine 150mg in the morning & 75mg at night. Despite this high dose of antidepressants I am still very low, have no motavation to do anything, I cannot stay focused long enough on anything so I avoid dealing with bills & other paperwork. I stay in bed & block out everything & everybody so
    My life is just passing me by & I am desperate to lift my mood so that I can get up each day . My house is full of clutter & I can’t motivate myself to clear even when I have offers of help. I feel lonely & unloved & taken for granted but I put on a brave face most of the time. How do I know what type of light box to buy or rent as I have looked at a website already which had a huge variety ranging from £38 up to nearly £200. If you can help me i would really appreciate it & thankyou for your help.
    Yours sincerely
    Rosaleen Ginty
    Watford – Hertfordshire

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