Seasonal Affective Disorder — A Common Health Issue (republished from last year)
Autumn is here! Unfortunately, this also ushers in a much less pleasant season for a large number of people: Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.
I have a mild form of SAD and know that it impacts me in a few ways, so I’m on a mission to help others since many people don’t even realize they have this issue and even those who do realize this might not know there are simple treatment options. Let’s see how many people we can help together!
What is SAD?
SAD is a form of depression that happens at the same time each year (typically fall/winter) and is thought to be associated with a lack of sunlight.
Several days last week were cloudy in my area and I could feel the effects from my mild form of SAD. The best way to describe my symptoms is that it feels like a slight “heaviness” descends upon me and affects my energy levels and concentration. I’m sure other people have different symptoms that are far worse than mine. I immediately pulled out my lightbox discussed below and made sure to get outside for some sunshine.
I have become a fan of integrative medicine for some issues, which some people like and others don’t.
I wanted to show this to my own family, so I decided to point them to the Mayo Clinic as a great source.
Top Points About SAD
Here are some notes I took from the Mayo Clinic’s pages about SAD and other sources (links to sources on my blog):
1) As mentioned by the Mayo Clinic, WEBMD, and many others, SAD is a form of depression. So, it’s not “just the winter blues”. If you have more than mild symptoms when the seasons change, it could be worth asking your doctor about this.
2) Serotonin levels. A possible cause of SAD is low serotonin levels. The Mayo Clinic says, “A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.” I have had my serotonin levels tested and they were lower than they should be.
3) Sunshine and Vitamin D3. Sunshine is a very important treatment for SAD. Unfortunately, unlike sunlight, light therapy boxes don’t appear to stimulate the production of Vitamin D so it’s still far more important to get as much sunshine as possible in the fall/winter. Another possible treatment if recommended by your doctor/practitioner is to supplement with high quality vitamin D3.
4) Family History. The Mayo Clinic lists family history as a risk factor, stating “People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.”
5) Light Therapy. The Mayo Clinic also says, “Light therapy is one of the first-line treatments for fall-onset SAD. It generally starts working in a few days to two weeks and causes few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most people in relieving SAD symptoms.” I am not a super-expert at these devices, but below is the light therapy product I use. It is currently the #1 rated light therapy product sold on Amazon. For about $70, don’t expect this to be the most rugged device ever.
6) Diet and Exercise. The program of a good diet and consistent exercise is very helpful with the treatment of SAD. Exercise in particular can help you deal with stress, which can help with SAD.