During winter months in the US, the days are colder, shorter, and darker. It’s enough to make anyone feel out of sorts and long for the summer month’s seasonal changes.
However, some people may actually be experiencing something called Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can affect some people mildly, while others find it unmanageable. Either way, it’s common for those suffering from SAD to experience symptoms that include anxiety, problems with sleep, moodiness, a lack of interest in normal activities, and an overall feeling of exhaustion.
Certain factors make some people more susceptible to seasonal mood disorders. For example, women tend to be diagnosed at higher rates than men. Geography matters, too, of course. People who live far north or south of the equator are at higher risk.
Genetics and personal mental health history can be variables as well. Those who have relatives with depression or have personally struggled with it in the past are at a higher risk for SAD. And, clinicians believe age has something to do with it. Young adults have a greater risk of SAD than their parents.
If you suspect you have SAD, you don’t have to suffer through it until spring. Reaching out to your primary care physician or finding a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist in your area, can make a world of difference for you.
There are also many natural treatments that are said to help prevent SAD from interfering with your quality of life. Here are a few:
Light therapy: Light can work wonders on mood and feeling more at ease. One Medical primary caregiver recommends investing in a light therapy device. “You’ll see the best results if you use a 10,000-lux light source and perform phototherapy first thing in the morning,” they state in a blog on SAD. “
“Sit with your eyes open (but don’t stare directly into the lightbox) for 10 to 15 minutes each day, gradually increasing to 45 minutes daily. You can try twice-daily sessions if your symptoms don’t improve. You can buy phototherapy lightboxes without a prescription.”
Get moving: Exercise gets the blood flowing and releases endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones your body craves. People who exercise regularly report lower rates of SAD.
Take vitamin D supplements: A lack of vitamin D has been associated with higher rates of depression. Increasing intake may help with managing moods. Ask your doctor about what dose might be appropriate for you.
Please remember, if you experience any severe symptoms of depression, such as thoughts of suicide, you should seek medical care immediately. Additionally, watch out for drastic increases in appetite and associated weight gain, problems with focus and concentration, and abnormal sleep patterns. Keep in mind that early diagnosis and treatment can be a recipe for preventing and managing symptoms of SAD.