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Seasonal Depression


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Does wintertime leave you feeling blue, despondent, or just plain down? Well, you’re not alone. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a real condition that can happen around this time of year. Depression symptoms, such as sleeping too much, feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, or guilt, not enjoying activities you normally would, and/or changes in appetite can all result from SAD. SAD is more commonly diagnosed in women and younger adults, and by some estimates, occurs in about 5% of Americans.

Changes in our circadian rhythms, our internal clocks, may be the culprit. The decreased hours of sunlight affect how our body’s processes work, leading to out-of-whack hormone levels, like serotonin and melatonin, which, in turn, disrupt our moods and sleep patterns. The lack of Vitamin D, which we can acquire from sunlight, is also associated with this disorder, and can be cyclical. Less sunlight leads to lower Vitamin D levels, and decreased Vitamin D can throw off serotonin levels, which, then, lead to those yucky moods.

Since some of the problem is caused by a lack of sunlight, there is great news. A simple treatment is mimicking those imperative solar benefits. Phototherapy, or light therapy, is simply using bright lights to help the body understand that it can be just as happy as it is during those delightful, long sought after, warm summer months. Many lamps for just this purpose are on the market. Ones that limit the amount of light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum are the best options, so as not to cause damage to the skin or eyes.

It could be that our modern society’s never-ending requirements prevent us from getting the extra rest that our bodies naturally require from time to time. Figuring out a way to meet our responsibilities, while still maintaining our own health and well-being, could mean the careful planning out, and then orchestration, of our daily schedules, and it could also very well imply saying no to many unnecessary commitments. Paying close attention to our body’s clues will help us figure out just which of those activities are essential, and which are not.

Whatever the cause, there is no need to suffer: help, in the form of a healthcare professional, is nearby. They can help if you think you may have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.


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