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Do You Have SAD?

Here in Michigan, it’s hard not to notice the days getting shorter and shorter. It’s dark when you go to work, and for many of us, it’s already dark when we get in our cars to go home. This can lead to a type of depression known as SAD, or Seasonal Affect Depression.

What is SAD

SAD is a type of depression that is related to the changing seasons and is associated with the fall and winter months specifically. It is believed to be at least partially caused by the decreased amount of sunlight that you are exposed to during these times of the year. This change may cause a drop in Serotonin levels, a drop in Melatonin production, or maybe both which leads to symptoms of depression. Another theory is that SAD is triggered by changes in your circadian rhythm that occurs with the changing seasons.

The symptoms most often associated with SAD include:

  • Sad mood

  • Lowered energy

  • Sleeping too much

  • Cravings for carbs/weight gain

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Not wanting to talk with people or hang out with friends

  • Difficulty going to work or school- not wanting to get out of bed

Who is Affected by SAD

SAD is more common in women and in younger adults. People who have family members with SAD are more likely to get it. Also, it is more common with people who live further from the equator (which equates to people who get less sunlight in the autumn and winter months). SAD is also related to low vitamin D levels. If you remember, vitamin D is the vitamin that is produced in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight, so this is not surprising at all!

How Can I Help Myself if I Think I Have SAD

SAD is very treatable, and there is no reason for you to try and live with it. I would suggest first talking with your doctor to rule out that there is anything physical going on, and then discussing your treatment options. These might include:

1. Light therapy- the first line of treatment for SAD is the use of a special light. Your doctor can tell you if there is a specific light or strength of light he or she would like you to use. Treatment with light generally consists of you sitting in front of the light for a set amount of time every day. During this time, you can often be doing other things like getting ready for your day, eating, reading, writing in your journal, or putting on your makeup. With light therapy, you should notice improvement within a few days to a couple of weeks.

2. Therapy- Often times when you are feeling depressed, talking with someone can help you to feel better. A professional can give you a new perspective and teach you better ways of coping with your mood issues. A therapist might also use CBT techniques to help you change any negative thoughts you might be experiencing and teach you ways to cope with stress.

3. Medications- Sometimes the use of medications to manage the symptoms of depression is useful and needed. This is up to you and your MD to decide, but just remember that sometimes these types of medications can take a couple of weeks to a month to become effective.

4. Lifestyle changes- There are things you can try at home to help your SAD. Try some of these things:

  • Try to make your environment brighter and sunnier! Open the blinds, and cut away trees & bushes. Know, however, that you can not get the UVB that’s needed for vitamin D through window glass. You need to get the sunlight directly to the skin.

  • Go outside and get some fresh air & sunlight

  • Sleep at least 7 hours per day and get onto a regular sleep schedule. Try to avoid taking any naps.

  • Regular exercise to help with stress

Closing Thoughts

SAD is the depression that happens when the seasons start to change, and days get shorter at the beginning of autumn. If you believe you have SAD and the lifestyle changes above aren’t working, I would love to talk further with you about depression treatment. Just follow the link!


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