Signs, Symptoms and Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder


Across the country, Mother Nature is wreaking havoc. A lot of areas are experiencing winter weather whiteouts while others are affected by torrential downpours and tornadic weather. Regardless, Spring is supposed to be right around the corner and with it comes a change in mood to many.
Throughout the winter season, millions of individuals are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If your mood and energy level appear to sink when the days get shorter, you may have it.
What is it? SAD is a sadness or depression that typically lasts during the winter months and usually improves at the start of spring.
While the causes of SAD aren’t completely understood, it’s clear the condition is triggered by reduced exposure to sunlight, which may reset our internal clocks and hormones. Different than the “winter blues” many of us feel when the days are darkest, SAD is a serious condition that should be treated by a professional.
Common Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
Any of SAD’s symptoms – and combinations of them – could be caused by other physical and psychological conditions. If you experience any of these symptoms, please reach out to our team.
• Aches and pains you can’t explain
• Anxiety
• Cravings for carbs, sweets and starches
• Decreased focus and concentration
• Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
• Despair
• Increased drowsiness or sleepiness
• Irritability or angriness
• Loss of interest in socializing and usual activities
• Low self-esteem
• Reduced sex drive
• Sadness
• Trouble sleeping or getting back to sleep
• Weight gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments
There are a few SAD treatment options that you should discuss with your doctor:
• Bright Light or Phototherapy: These special fixtures create intensely bright light (10,000 Lux) that can lower your body’s desire to release melatonin, and help you feel more alert and less sad. Don’t use light boxes without a doctor’s OK as they can cause hypomania or other problems. Dawn simulators, which mimic the light of the rising sun, can help you wake up more easily during those dark winter mornings – and help you start the day in a better mood.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This instructive form of therapy teaches you techniques to reduce negative behaviors, mindsets and thoughts so you can deal more effectively with feelings, stress, pain and more. Studies show CBT can be very helpful in managing SAD.
Beyond these formal treatments, there are other things you can do to ease SAD symptoms. These tactics are also helpful for people who haven’t been diagnosed, but may have the “winter blues”:
• Improve interior light. You can get additional benefits by improving the practical and natural lighting in our home or office. Keep windows uncovered, and equip lamps with special bulbs that mimic sunlight but filter UVA rays.
• Get moving. Physical activity has multiple benefits for people with SAD. Exercise helps address the weight gain often associated with the condition. And being active reduces stress by releasing endorphins and serotonin, and by reducing your heart rate.
• Participate in hobbies and experiences. Participating in hobbies and activities you enjoy, and maybe even trying something new, is good medicine.
• Go outdoors. Even if it’s overcast, you get some relief from SAD just by being outside for a few minutes of daylight every day. Just sitting on the porch can improve your mood and energy, but when you combine exercise with your outdoor time, you get twice the benefit!
• Reduce stress. Keeping stress at bay reduces the impact of depression, anxiety and sleep loss. Find a few minutes each day for quiet time, meditation or yoga. Find something that relaxes you!
• Eat better. okay to indulge cravings with a small portion, but you’ll get better results from eating healthier foods like oatmeal, walnuts, omega-3-rich fish, and bananas. Bonus: Healthier eating also helps manage your weight.
• Be social. Staying connected (or reconnecting) with friends and family is crucial to keep your spirits up. Research proves that better physical, cognitive and mental health is associated with social engagement.
Seasonal Affective Disorder responds well to intervention. If you or a loved one are experiencing SAD symptoms, Spring into action and contact us today!