Its mid-January, the winter holidays have been used up, and you have to drag yourself out of bed every morning to go through another grueling day at work. On the way to work or even while you are working, you remember the awesome New Year’s party you threw for your friends and how much fun you had, after what seemed to be forever. If this sounds like you, it might just be that you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to the experts, around 10-20% of people experience mild SAD while 4-5% experience severe SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is caused by the change in the seasons, and the most common SAD is the winter depression which comes around late fall or early winter and is gone as we get to summer. This type of depression is also more commonly known as the Winter Blues and has a few symptoms that can help your doctor diagnose your condition.
The Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
- Increased weight gain
- Increase in food urges (especially sweets)
- Fatigue and a lack of energy to do anything
- Oversleeping more than usual
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on work
- Avoidance of situations that require socializing
- Greater sensitivity to getting rejected socially
Why Do Some Of Us Get Seasonal Affective Disorder?
According to the experts, the reason people have Seasonal Affective Disorder is due to the drop in serotonin and norepinephrine levels which occurs in the winter season. This decline in neurotransmitter levels is normal as we spend less time in the sun and is said to rise back up in the summer, eliminating the symptoms experienced.
The reason that some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder is that these neurotransmitters have been found to be triggered by the light-sensing photoreceptors in our eyes. Unfortunately, due to the exposure to the sun being at a minimum during winter, the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine produced is reduced, leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What’s The Doctor’s Treatment Plan For Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter, your doctor might suggest you try light therapy. Light therapy requires you to use a special light box by looking into it for usually around half an hour every day. According to studies, this can help your body to increase the neurotransmitter levels in your brain that improve your mood and get rid of the winter depression.
However, it’s also been seen that if you stop using the light therapy too soon, you may find the symptoms coming back. There can be a few side effects of using light therapy including irritability, fatigue, eye strain, headaches and, difficulty sleeping. These side effects are more evident if you do the light therapy in the evenings or before sleeping. For those with a severe case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may be asked to take behavior therapy or prescription medication along with light therapy by your doctor.
Fortunately, there are a few tips that you can use to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter:
1. Make Sure That You Stay Social
Most people who have winter depression prefer to stay in social isolation. So, to remedy this depression, experts suggest increasing your social interactions. A study has found that being social affects the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis which works to increase levels of feel-good hormones and reduce stress hormones.
You can make sure that you stay social by involving yourself in a weekend project with some friends or family members. Even something as simple as a weekly catch-up over dinner can help. One-on-one interactions can also help get rid of SAD when it’s with someone you care about and have a connection with.
2. Take Some Vitamin D Supplements
According to multiple studies, taking Vitamin D pills to combat a deficiency in the body (like in winter) can be more effective than light therapy. This is because Vitamin D has been found to help in the production and release of the neurotransmitter, serotonin in your brain. However, if you are considering Vitamin D supplements, its best to get your levels checked by a doctor before ordering online.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a real drag and a Vitamin D pill a day can turn the gloom into bloom this winter. For those who are wondering, few foods contain sufficient Vitamin D to make up for the lack of sun exposure during winters.
3. Avoid Late Night TV
We have all hear how watching TV or being glued to our phones before bed can negatively affect our sleep quality, right? So, how is it that this happens? Well, according to the experts, the lights from the TV cause our brain to think that it’s still daytime, preventing the release of melatonin that helps us sleep.
Instead, the screen light causes your body to become more alert with more cortisol being created, increasing your already high levels of stress (due to Seasonal Affective Disorder) and ruining your sleep. The simplest way to improve your sleep is to not use your phone, tablet, laptop or TV a few hours before sleeping.
4. Try Color Therapy
According to a 2015 study, there are a few colors that can help combat SAD, and while this direction of research is new, it’s shown some correlation with some nature studies. The colors to surround yourself include bright green, red or blues which are known to cause the brain to become alert and active.
You can paint your bedroom a bright shade of red if you want but you can also try a few more accessible ways to brighten up your day. These include wearing fewer drab colors and trying out those bright red pumps you have wanted to buy last week.
Color Therapy Glasses work best for some people as they are more convinient.
5. The Light Therapy
Using a light therapy box can offer relief. The Light therapy has proven to work the best for people that have the Season Affective Disorder. A light therapy box mimics the outdoor light which we miss during this season. The light generated from the light therapy box causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts up the mood and eases other symptoms of SAD.
Light Therapy Boxes can be bought without a prescription and are available online.
While some people don’t take winter blues seriously, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a problem that many Americans have to face every season. For those of you who are prone to have Seasonal Affective Disorder, try these expert tips out for effective results.