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Introduction to S.A.D. (Seasonal Affected Disorder)

on August 20, 2014

I feel that mental illness and any mood related disorders lose some of their power if they are talked about and ‘normalized’ like any disease, such as diabetes or heart disease. People who suffer in silence are at a greater risk for heightened feelings of isolation, anxiety and fear about what their ‘disease’ may do to them (or cause them to do to themselves). Here in the Pacific Northwest the end of summer brings a gray haze that will settle over us for the fall and winter months. For some of us (like me) this gray tends to feel heavy and begins to weigh us down. Introducing S.A.D.

seasonal affective disorder
n. Abbr. SAD
A form of depression occurring at certain seasons of the year, especially when the person has less exposure to sunlight.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)

Here is some information thanks to Web MD

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

One type of depression is Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It occurs during the same season each year usually in the winter. Someone affected may have felt depressed during the last two winters but then felt much better in spring and summer.

Anyone can get SAD, but it’s more common in women, people ages 15-55, people who have a family member with the disorder, and those who live father away from the equator.

What causes SAD?

Professionals aren’t sure what causes SAD, but it may be connected to a lack of sunlight. This lack of light may
upset your “biological clock,” which controls your sleep-wake pattern and other circadian rhythms. It can also create serotonin ( a brain chemical which affects mood) problems.
What are the symptoms?

Some common symptoms of SAD are feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious. You may lose interest in normal activities. You may sleep more but still feel tired and have trouble concentrating. It is also common to gain weight because of craving carbs.

Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. Most people with SAD start to have symptoms in the fall and begin to feel better in the spring.

How is SAD diagnosed?

SAD and other types of depression share many symptoms which is why a doctors involvement in diagnosis is important. You doctor will have certain questions they ask to get a clear picture of what may be going on.
For a SAD diagnosis one of the main symptoms to note is the seasonal regularity of the symptoms and that they go away when the better weather comes back. Other symptoms such as being very hungry (especially craving carbohydrates), gaining weight, and sleeping more than usual are common with SAD. Also as with any illness if you have a close blood relative—a parent, brother, or sister—has had SAD you are more likely to have it as well.

There are also blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as low thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Mental health assessments by a trained professional counselor or doctor may also help them to get a better idea of how you feel and how well you are able to think, reason, and remember.

How is it treated?

Light therapy is the main treatment for SAD. The thought is the light therapy can re-set your biological clock. Medicines and counseling may also help.

There are two types of light therapy: a bright light therapy which is a light box you put a certain distance away from you and sit in front of it for about 30-45 min. You can read or work on your computer hile you do this so it is a very easy treatment. The other is a dawn simulation lamp which lights up dim in the morning and gently gets brighter like a sunrise.
Thanks Web MD! *(I have discussed my personal S.A.D. situation with my naturopath and we have come up with a plan of attack for me. Web MD was used for information for this post not to diagnose myself.)

As with any illness it is important to be aware of the symptoms and have a support system in place. Knowledge is powerful, knowing what to expect and banking coping strategies makes any mental/mood illness feel less ‘big’ and more manageable. There is always something to try that can help and someone to talk to. No-one is really alone and if those around you know that you suffer from a mood illness they will be more likely to notice any mood changes and offer their support when you may not be able to ask for help yourself. Do not keep your illness hidden. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, bi-polar, panic attacks, chronic low moods, or any other illness talk to a professional and let your loved ones know. Just as with diabetes or heart disease your loved ones can help you watch your illness by noting your symptoms. There is no shame in any illness. * When I use the term ‘loved ones’ I mean the people you hold dear to your heart whom you trust. These people may or may not be your immediate relatives.

This year I have decided to try to combat my S.A.D. feelings instead of just ‘making it through’. I have been taking Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D among other supplements and I ordered a SAD bright light therapy box. I plan to set it up next to where I have my morning coffee and read the news and write my posts. I’m hoping it will help. Here’s to open discussion about mental illness and mood disorders.

3 responses to “Introduction to S.A.D. (Seasonal Affected Disorder)

  1. I suspect for some time now that my mother may be suffering from this as she is extremely irritable and grumpier than usual when fall hits us. She adamantly denies it and claims there is no such thing. I wish she’d listen to me but I can’t force her into doing anything.

    • Megan L. says:

      It’s possible for sure. I notice the gray…Here in WA the sky is not blue during the fall and winter but a gray hazy color. I just ordered my light therapy box (off amazon) I also take vitamin D. I was extremely Vit. D deficient (like most people here in WA). The vitamins and the light box can’t do any harm. And you are correct…you can’t force her…:( There is a lot of info on the internet and in books about SAD. Hopefully she will be open to trying something at some point 🙂

  2. […] mind & body health: I wrote about my S.A.D. disorder in late August and will re-cap what benefit my light therapy box has had for […]

Thoughts?? :)

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