Some people are greatly affected by changes in weather conditions or seasons. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of disorder that many people suffer from.  While some people feel depressed at a particular stage in their life, those that have seasonal affective disorder experience diminished mood and energy at a particular period of the year and it happens annually.  


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder also referred to as seasonal depression or SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a particular period of the year and usually occurs every year at about the same time.  Generally people suffering from this disorder experience depression and lower energy beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter months.  As spring approaches and the days begin to get longer and warmer the sufferer’s moods improve and their energy begins to return.

Those that are severely affected may notice their symptoms lasting through spring and even into early summer.  


Who may be at higher risk?

Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Being female: SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but men may have more-severe symptoms.
  • Age: Young people have a higher risk of winter SAD, and winter SAD is less likely to occur in older adults.
  • Family history: People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
  • Having clinical depression or bipolar disorder: Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
  • Living far from the equator: SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.


Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Like many disorders, the exact cause of Seasonal Affective disorder is yet to be discovered.  Lack of sunlight seems to be a major contributing factor and is strongly believed to trigger seasonal affective disorder.

Other possible causes include:

Abnormalities in the brain: The absence of light may affect a chemical in the brain, called serotonin that is responsible for mood changes, leading to seasonal affective disorder

Genetic factors: It is also believed that seasonal affective disorder could be hereditary.  If one has a close relative or a parent with seasonal affective disorder, then there is a higher possibility of the person having this disorder later in life.

Excessive production of melatonin: People with seasonal affective disorder seems to have to sleep for a longer period.  This is because their body produces melatonin in higher levels than normal which might result in SAD.


Symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder

The symptoms listed below could vary from person to person.  However, anybody with this disorder will experience some of the symptoms below.

  • Sudden loss of interest in activities that used to be of great interest to you
  • Sudden love for carbohydrate foods
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating or being focused on a particular thing
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleep
  • Strange aches and pains in certain parts of the body
  • Irritability
  • Use of alcohol and drugs


Diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Diagnosis of SAD could be pretty difficult because the symptoms are also associated with other types of depression.  There is no specific test used for the diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder. To effectively diagnose this disorder, your doctor might need to examine you properly to rule out the possibility of other disorders.

Before confirming the presence of Seasonal affective disorder, you must have experienced depression during a particular season of the year for more than two years and with the same signs following them.  

There will also be a need to carry out certain test to assess the mental state of the person.


Natural Supplements For SAD

There are a number of methods that can be used to treat seasonal affective disorder. The use of nutritional and natural supplements is highly recommended because they have little or no side effects on the body.

Foods and nutritional supplements that will increase the production of serotonin like bananas, oatmeal are recommended while carbohydrate foods should be avoided.

Omega-3 fats such as fish oil can also help reduce depression.

Researchers have proven that deficiency of vitamin D is associated with SAD, therefore vitamin D3 supplements are recommended

Supplements like S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e), tyrosine and 5- hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) are good for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. They act as natural antidepressants and are of great help in improving one’s mood.


Lifestyle changes for SAD

Making some minor changes to your lifestyle and incorporating some simple techniques and tools can be of great benefit in the fight against SAD.

Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight is one of the most important things in battling SAD.  This can be difficult in the winter months when days are short and the skies are often overcast. Whenever possible try to get outside in the sun but if that just isn’t happening then investing in a full spectrum SAD light can make a big difference.  It simulates sunlight to enhance mood and energy.   You can also try a dawn simulator.  Waking up in the morning when it’s still dark out can be challenging, a dawn simulator helps to illuminate your bedroom so you wake up in light and not in darkness. This device is built in such a way that the light increases as the day breaks so you wake up in light.

Meditation and relaxation: Relaxation can help reduce stress. We all have activities that make us happy. Try doing things from time to time to relieve stress like yoga or meditation.  Enjoy a walk or a movie with a friend. Take up a fun hobby like painting, crafts or pottery.

Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to gradually help the individual look at the positive side of life and think positively.

Regular exercise in addition to implementing all the things discussed in this post, will definitely put you on the right path to controlling seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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