For nearly 10 million people in the US, dark winter days translate into dark moods. Medical researchers call this Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it is a mild type of depression. Because all of us are different, there is no set rule on how to treat SAD. In this article, we’ll explore SAD, its symptoms and causes, and discuss unique treatments used by many to fight it.
How Does SAD Differ From Other Types of Depression?
Your calendar will give you a fairly good idea of when SAD symptoms become prevalent. Because it appears to be triggered by a decrease in exposure to sunlight, SAD symptoms normally begin to appear in late fall.
Since SAD is a type of depression, symptoms of the two are nearly identical, including:
- A stubborn low mood that rarely lifts
- Increased thoughts of self-harm
- Feelings of nervousness or anxiety
- Loss of interest in socializing with others
- Decrease in sex drive, and
- Difficulty in concentration.
According to researchers with the Mayo Clinic, the reduction in exposure to sunlight causes these symptoms by:
- Interrupting our body’s internal clock
- Causing a reduction in our levels of serotonin, thus depriving our brain of a natural and powerful neurotransmitter, and
- Reducing our levels of melatonin, which plays a huge role in maintaining regular sleep patterns.
Three Unique Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Like other forms of depression, a host of medications are available specifically for SAD. The trick with medication is finding the right one that works for your system. But there are other forms of treatment for SAD that have shown positive results.
Light From a Box – Like other living things, we respond to light. Light therapy embraces that knowledge by utilizing flat screens that give off light considerably brighter than normal household light bulbs. The idea is to imitate the energy normally received from the sun. Light therapy treatment generally calls for users to sit in front of their light box for 30 minutes per day, with best results produced during morning hours.
Watch a Comedy – Don’t laugh, it actually works! Laughing does our bodies a world of good, physically and mentally. Research shows that when you laugh, your organs are stirred by the increased intake of air, which multiplies the endorphins released by the brain. Laughter is also believed to improve your overall mood and relieve pain, thereby easing depression symptoms.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) – Having earned FDA approval in 2008, dTMS is proving to be an exciting form of treatment that harnesses the power in your brain, enabling communication between neurotransmitters to become unblocked. This enables communication between your brain’s neurons and receptors to flow more clearly.
An outpatient procedure that requires no sedation, dTMS generates low frequency magnetic pulses through a fitted cap worn by the patient. These pulses generate an electronic field in the underlying brain tissue and rouse the regions of the brain that contribute to depression. dTMS is performed throughout the US with the recommendation of a doctor.
Give Your Treatment a Boost!
Whichever form of treatment for SAD you select, you can increase its effectiveness even more when you combine it with things like exercise, socializing with friends and family, getting outdoors as much as possible, learning how to relax and eating healthier.
If your dark moods continue, it’s probably time to talk with your doctor, so that an individualized plan of action can be initiated to get you feeling better. Because you know yourself far better than anyone else, it’s important to keep tabs on your physical and mental health. If you feel that you are experiencing SAD or any other form of depression, please contact your personal doctor.