As fall approaches, people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may begin to experience new symptoms. According to Psychology Today, SAD affects at least 10 million Americans, most of which experience symptoms of major depression beginning in the fall and throughout winter. If you experience symptoms of SAD as fall arrives and turns to winter, you should talk with your doctor about risk factors and treatments. There are tricks to try, and treatments to consider.
Tricks and Treatments
Not every mental health condition warrants medication. Your SAD symptoms may be controlled or lessened by treatments you can get at home or from a medical professional. Not every treatment is equal, so it’s important to discuss your symptoms and your options with your doctor.
Light therapy is a medical treatment and should not be replaced with an alternative when prescribed by your doctor. Sunlight may help by taking an outdoor walk or opening windows for natural light in the home.
Vitamin D is necessary when people don’t get enough through diet or sun exposure. Vitamin D is good for bone health, cell growth, and immune health.
Antidepressants can help people with SAD to take part in regular daily life. This is a long-term treatment and doesn’t work immediately. Your physician may recommend taking antidepressants to treat your symptoms if you are a danger to yourself or others or if your symptoms interfere in your job or relationships.
Talk therapy can help ease symptoms of depression, hopelessness, worthlessness, and anxiety associated with SAD. Find a therapist or join a group of other people who struggle with the same type of condition or symptoms as you.
Physical activity is an all-natural treatment that fights depression. Exercise begins a process that almost immediately improves symptoms of depression. First, endorphins are released that cause the body and the mind to feel good for a temporary period of time. When an exercise regimen is maintained, the body releases proteins which help cell growth, health, and nerve cell connections. This process inside the body improves brain function, nerve cell growth, and relieves depression.
Stay awake for an appropriate amount of time each day. This means limiting overnight sleeping to a targeted amount of no less than 7 hours and no more than 9.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about all tricks and treatments you may consider for treating your seasonal symptoms. Symptoms of major depression can be serious and life-threatening and must be shared with a trusted professional who can properly treat your condition. If you experience such symptoms and suspect you may have SAD, it’s never too early to talk with your doctor about it.
Symptoms of Winter Pattern SAD
Summer pattern SAD does occur in a smaller number of people, but the symptoms are quite different. If you experience changes in behavior or mood this fall, it can be a sign of a serious problem. The following is a comprehensive list of symptoms associated with winter pattern SAD reported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
• Low energy
• Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
• Weight gain
• Cravings (specifically for carbohydrates)
• Social withdrawal (“hibernating”)
• Feelings of depression most the day
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Feelings of worthlessness
• Low energy
• Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
• Difficulty sleeping
• Appetite changes
• Weight changes
• Feelings of sluggishness
• Feelings of agitation
• Difficulty concentrating
• Thoughts of death or suicide