Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that follows a seasonal pattern. It’s commonly known as the “winter blues” because its symptoms are more pronounced and severe during winter. Read on for more on SAD and the treatment options available.

Why Do Some People Suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The specific cause of SAD isn’t completely understood, but it’s believed to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is key for producing serotonin, a brain chemical that boosts our mood and helps us feel calm and focused. The changing seasons can also increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Longer nights in winter can lead to more melatonin, which might make you feel sleepy and sluggish.

Genetics might also play a role. Some people might be more naturally prone to SAD if they have a family history of other mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of SAD vary from person to person but may include:

  • Feeling sad
  • Being disinterested in everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Overeating
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Social withdrawal

Treatment Options for SAD

Light Therapy

Light therapy is one of the leading treatments for SAD. Many find it highly effective, especially when started before the onset of severe symptoms. Light therapy involves sitting in front of or beneath a light box that emits a bright light for 30 to 45 minutes each morning.

Medication

If symptoms are moderate to severe, your doctor might suggest medication. It’s important to review the options available with your doctor to find the best one for you.

Psychotherapy

Certain forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, may successfully cure SAD. This treatment assists patients in identifying and changing harmful thinking patterns and actions that may be related to symptoms of depression.

Vitamin D

Some studies suggest a vitamin D supplement could help improve your symptoms.

Coping Strategies for SAD

Maximise Natural Sunlight

Exposure to natural light can be very effective. Try to make your environment as sunny and bright as possible. Keep curtains open during the day and sit near windows when indoors. Take a walk during daylight hours, preferably early in the day.

Maintain a Routine

Try to wake up at the same time every day, eat meals at regular times, and establish a bedtime routine that includes winding down before turning off the lights.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A well-balanced diet can improve your mood and energy levels, keeping both in better balance. Avoid overeating, especially carbohydrates like pasta and bread, which can lead to lethargy and weight gain.

Stay Active

Regular physical activity can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good chemicals. Even if the weather doesn’t allow for exercising outside, there are plenty of ways to get active indoors, such as yoga, pilates, or home workout videos.

Connect Socially

Socialise regularly with friends and family. Being around others and engaging in social activities can lift your spirits and help you feel less isolated.

Manage Stress

Meditation, deep breathing techniques, and gradual muscular relaxation may help to reduce stress levels.

Conclusion

Seasonal Affective Disorder can significantly impact your quality of life. However, managing the symptoms and finding relief with the right strategies and treatments is possible. By understanding what triggers your symptoms and how to combat them effectively, you can better navigate the colder months and keep your mood steady throughout the year. If you suspect you might have SAD, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember, you’re not alone, and help is available.

Medical Society offers healthcare plans that cover a range of convenient Telehealth Consultations with a Nurse, Doctor, or Mental Health Professional and various medical services at our strategically located medical centres nationwide. Contact Medical Society for helpful advice on how our service can assist you and your family and more beneficial information on improving your health and well-being.

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