Signs & Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (and How to Treat SAD)

Posted by admin on May 16, 2017

In life, we all go through periods of emotional highs and lows.  During the winter, life tends to naturally slow down.  The days get shorter, the weather gets cold and sometimes dreary, and it makes you just want to curly up under the covers and stay there.  Though it is normal to go through peaks and valleys emotionally and mentally, if you experience symptoms of depression seasonally, you may have what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that has the same symptoms as those of major depression:  reduced energy/low energy, weight gain, difficulty sleeping, desire to be alone, feeling agitated, increased appetite, thoughts of death or suicide, feeling hopeless or worthless, loss of interest in activities you enjoy.  Though it is unknown exactly what causes SAD, it is believed to be the result of a lack of access to bright light during the winter.  There is also a higher incidence of SAD the further you move away from the equator.  Also, although it occurs in both males and females, females are at a significantly increased risk of developing SAD.  One of the key contributors to SAD is serotonin.  In those diagnosed with SAD, it has often been observed that they have difficulty regulating serotonin levels and may have decreased levels of serotonin in winter months.  They may also have increased melatonin (regulates sleep patterns) and decreased Vitamin D.

If you have been experiencing symptoms of depression and are concerned you have SAD, or if you have recently been diagnosed with SAD, there are a variety of treatment options available.  Prescription medication and vitamin supplements may be prescribed as needed to help regulate serotonin and Vitamin D levels.  Additionally, many SAD patients have found that light therapy (increased exposure to bright light) has been helpful in alleviating symptoms of SAD.  And, one of the most important things that anyone should do when diagnosed with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  Therapy is an important part of relieving symptoms and finding healing from SAD.  PsychCentral reports on the research that supports the use of a combination of these treatments or CBT alone in combating SAD, “Early research has shown that CBT for seasonal affective disorder may be even more effective than light therapy (and doesn’t require the extensive time commitment as light boxes do). In this 2009 study, Rohan and colleagues compared SAD-tailored CBT to light therapy (along with a combination of both treatments and a wait-list condition). They found that CBT, light therapy and both CBT and light therapy were all effective in treating SAD. However, at the one-year followup, participants treated with CBT were doing much better than individuals in the light therapy condition. In secondary analyses, Rohan also controlled for ongoing treatment, and the CBT participants still fared better.”   Seek help to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder from a trained and experienced CBT therapist, such as Diebold Behavioral Counseling.

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