With August coming to an end and the school year right around the corner, the fall and winter months are getting closer and closer. In the winter months, many people are affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), experiencing symptoms like weight loss or weight gain, feeling agitated or having difficulties sleeping. SAD affects more than 265 million people worldwide, making it a serious health burden on a large amount of the population.
Understanding what SAD is, and how it affects people is important. Not only can it affect people during the colder months of the year, but many people also experience SAD in the spring and summer months. It will affect each person in a different way, with some people experiencing more severe symptoms, and others only experiencing a select few symptoms.
What Causes SAD?
A big contributing factor to seasonal affective disorder has to do with our circadian rhythm. With less sunlight in the fall and winter, it will impact your internal clock. Therefore, many people find themselves falling asleep earlier, or unable to get out of bed in the morning. This in turn causes a drop in serotonin levels, furthering those feelings of depression and helplessness. Young people and women are both more likely to develop SAD, and it is also something that can be a part of someone’s family history.
A few of the most common symptoms of SAD include loss of interest in things you enjoy, fatigue, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness or uselessness. It’s important to keep a note of these kinds of feelings, especially during the fall and winter to determine if SAD affects you.
How to treat SAD?
There are a few ways that we can treat SAD, one of those being light therapy. There are different kinds of lights you can find that provide artificial light to make up for the sunlight lost in the winter. It is important to talk to your doctor before beginning any form of treatment, and with light therapy it is important to determine the amount of time exposed to the light and the intensity. Your doctor can also help you come up with a plan as to how often you will use the light, and what times during the day are best to use it as well.
A light box will emit as little UV light as possible while providing exposure of 10 000 lux, mimicking outdoor sunlight. Most importantly, when choosing a light box, make sure it is made specifically to treat SAD, otherwise it may not reap the benefits you are looking for.
Resources for you or someone you know.
After the past two years it’s crucial that we consider our mental health going forward and being prepared with tools to help us through hard times might be able to take a bit of the stress off our shoulders. Below are a few resources related to SAD and depression:
As always, be gentle with yourself as we enter September, a month of new beginnings and unknowns can be exciting yet scary and stressful, and with talks of a fourth wave of COVID, prioritizing our mental health must be a top priority.