According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a particular type of depression that surfaces during particular times of the year. Typically, SAD affects people during the late fall and winter seasons, though sometimes it can also be associated with the summer season as well.
Those suffering from major depression will understand that mental disorder far exceeds mere bouts of sadness, but instead reflects a deeper issue brought upon by physiological and environmental factors. If you or someone you know suffers from SAD, here’s a breakdown of the causes, symptoms and solutions for overcoming the disorder.
The onset of SAD favors the winter season for a variety of factors. While there is no known cause for the disorder, there are several plausible theories based on obtained physiological data. According to studies, people with SAD have an increased amount of a serotonin-recycling protein (SERT) during the winter months. Serotonin is a hormone that dictates mood and positivity. With increased SERT, serotonin is quickly recycled back into the neuron, preventing the hormone from dispersing properly and leading to depression.
Studies also have shown that those with SAD suffered from a vitamin D deficiency, which can be attributed to reduced sunlight. This study is corroborated by data showing the spike of SAD occurs in individuals who live further away from the equator, with 9 percent of those living in far-northern regions suffering from the disorder.
Symptoms of SAD
Those suffering from SAD experience many of the same symptoms of major depression. These may include low energy, lack of interest, problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating and feelings of hopelessness.
In addition to the symptoms common with depression disorders, those with SAD may experience hypersomnia, overeating and social withdrawal. Those who suffer from, or know someone who suffers from, any form of depression disorder should be alerted to the possibility of suicidal tendencies and be aware of the signs of someone who may be grappling with frequent thoughts of death.
Studies have shown that light therapy, or exposure to natural light, can be an effective treatment for the symptoms of SAD. Of course one could spend time outdoors, but the reduced daylight times and frequent overcast conditions of the winter season may not provide enough light. To address this situation, scientists have created a “light box” that more closely re-creates natural lighting needed for the body to produce vitamin D and decrease the amount of SERT in the body.
Adding some natural lighting inside your home could help reduce stress and create more positivity in your home. Try to make this a part of your cleaning and decluttering routine, both of which can also result in a more relaxing environment. Make the most of what natural light you do have by cutting back branches or removing trees that block sunlight from coming through your windows. Trees next to the home are usually dangerous to cut down yourself, so look for a “tree service near me” and find someone with a strong reputation to lend you a hand.
Bring more life into your home environment by adding greenery. Small plants such as succulents help recycle the air, creating a fresher environment and tricking the brain into thinking that it’s a warmer season by seeing green. The colors we are exposed to can have an effect on our mood.
Speaking of colors, consider applying a fresh coat of paint on a wall or redecorating a room with warm hues such as red and orange to evoke warm, positive feelings.
Those who experience SAD and major depression know the paralyzing effect of these symptoms. If you believe that you are suffering from any form of depression, you should seek help. Remember, the first step to overcoming any obstacle in your life is recognizing that there is a problem and then making a conscious effort to fix it.
Lucille Rosetti, guest contributor
firstname.lastname@example.org │The Bereaved
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
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