What You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal depression is a serious mental disorder, which can sometimes be treated too lightly. Sometimes, this depression can be taken for the blues, which is not always true. If a person feels depressed for too long and has more severe symptoms of psychological disorders, it’s time to raise the alarm! This is especially a problem in the North, where the days are short and dark part of the year. So, let’s find out what a seasonal affective disorder is, its symptoms and the how it can be treated.
What is SAD?
SAD is a serious condition known as a seasonal affective disorder, a mental disorder that goes in a seasonal pattern. It normally affects people in autumn and aggravates in winter, when there is a lack of daylight and the weather is gloomy. Do not mix SAD with bad mood fluctuations. Seasonal affective disorder symptoms are more specific and long-term.
Seasonal affective disorder symptoms
A bad and depressed mood, melancholy and blues are evidence of SAD, which in the dark and cold season, many people are subject to. But these symptoms are not the grounds to judge about depressive disorders. Gradually they are amplified with appetite disorders, bad sleep, decreased libido, and psychosomatic disorders that materialize in painful sensations in different parts of the body. A person experiencing seasonal affective disorder can be apathetic, more irritable, and even aggressive at times. They can lose interest in people and events around them. At the same time, people with seasonal affective disorder symptoms may feel tired and weak, they can’t concentrate properly because of memory deterioration. In the most severe cases, seasonal depression causes loss of self-esteem accompanied by suicidal thoughts and even suicide attempts.
These are all possible symptoms of seasonal depression but it does not mean all of them affect a certain person. To be properly diagnosed requires the consultation of the specialist.
Recognizing seasonal depression
In most cases, it is impossible to make a correct diagnosis without a specialist’s help. The doctor uses a range of tools that help them to recognize the disorder. A medical professional conducts a survey of the patient, analyzes his/her condition to determine the degree of seasonal depression. Also, the patient is prescribed some laboratory tests to help identify the physiological causes of depression.
With psychosomatic disorders, the patient may require a comprehensive examination of the whole body. These complex measures make it possible to approach a correct diagnosis of the disease (eg, endocrine diseases can have similar symptoms).
Causes of seasonal depression
SAD is associated with vitamin deficiency and lack of light, which is particularly observed in people who live in the far north or south or spend excessive time indoors. Winter depression often begins in autumn and lasts until spring when there is more daylight. This condition may be chronic and repeat from year to year. Seasonal depression is associated with the cold and gloomy weather when the body is subject to additional stress. Abrupt temperature changes aggravate seasonal depression.
In addition to this, there are also common causes which can add to mental disorders. Frequent stress, nervous stress, improper diet, hormonal imbalance, and adverse environmental conditions are also prerequisites of a seasonal depression.
Seasonal affective disorder treatment
Keep in mind that there is no seasonal depression cure that works on its own and instantly. The treatment is much more complex. Aside from the medical treatment together with psychotherapy sessions, the most effective remedy uses lights for winter depression. It is aimed to eliminate the deficit of light. Natural day lighting is highly recommended. Fresh air and exercises help to improve the patient’s condition. But if a person lives in an area where sunlight is very scarce in winter, then seasonal affective disorder light box might substitute it. A person can replace their usual desk lamp with a large light box that can help to substitute for the natural light they’re missing. It emits more light and creates an impression of a sunny day. Lights for winter depression are popular in Finland, Norway, Canada and other northern countries.
Also, diet is important during treatment. Taking vitamins and minerals help to remedy a deficiency of vitamins in the body. A doctor or nutritionist may work out a diet plan with foods rich in vitamins such as fish, fresh fruit, juice and milk, dairy products and lean meat. Eating more foods containing iodine such as cauliflower, seaweeds and sea fish can be helpful for increasing daily vitamins, too.
Preventive actions for seasonal depression
Seasonal affective disorder must be treated under strict medical supervision but you can use preventive methods independently without doctor’s recommendations. These simple tips will help you stay protected against winter depression:
- Let more light and sunny brightness into your room. Open your blinds and shutters. In the daytime, try to be located closer to the window and use SAD lights for winter depression in the evening.
- Try to be outside longer. Arrange small trips during daylight hours or during the first two hours after waking up.
- Exercise regularly (5 times a week). Sport helps reduce stress and anxiety, high levels of which can exacerbate the symptoms of seasonal depression.
- Take care of your body. Go to bed earlier and have a deep sleep. Take a book if you can’t fall asleep. Arrange breaks during the day or switch to other activities every hour. Take time to relax.
- Spend time with your friends. In difficult moments, the support of friends will help you overcome negative emotions.
- Master some stress management techniques (muscular relaxation, anxiety management techniques, etc.). Excessive stress can lead to depression, overeating, and other adverse effects, as well as increase your vulnerability to the effects of light deficiency and other negative factors.
Now when you know how to prevent the symptoms of seasonal depression, do not let it overtake you during less sunny seasons. Stay happy, healthy and cheerful all year round!