Riverview Community Mental Health Blog

Dozen of articles | Mental health blog to improve your lifestyle now!

Help For Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Anxiety

Millions of people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) seasonal affective disorder

 

It is believed that during winter months, less daylight increases the natural level of the hormone melatonin and decreases serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a key hormone that stabilizes our mood and emotional balance.  Low serotonin levels are often linked to depression and lack of energy.

SAD is often accompanied by a weakened immune system and may cause a higher than usual level of anxiety

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD symptoms may include those of a major depressive disorder characterized by the following

  • Feeling depressed
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping too much or not enough (hypersomnia or insomnia)
  • Feeling anxious or agitated
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression symptoms that are attributed specifically to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are changes in sleep patterns, lack of motivation, increased or decreased appetite, and social withdrawal.  People who suffer from SAD tend to experience more depressive symptoms during the winter months and can also suffer from fatigue and irritability during the spring and summer.  Symptoms will vary from person to person.  If you or a loved one is experiencing seasonal affective disorder symptoms, you should seek professional treatment and follow recommendations from your doctor.

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Although there is no definitive cure for seasonal affective disorder, it can be managed effectively.  Symptoms of SAD can be controlled with light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, exercise, and diet or dietary supplements.

For people suffering from SAD, light exposure is an important factor in treating the condition. 

A psychologist may suggest light therapy which involves the daily use of artificial light.

Sunlight provides vitamin D which is often deficient during the winter months.  With the decreased sunlight during the winter, vitamin D may be obtained from certain foods.  The best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring, as well as egg yolks, mushrooms, and cod liver oil.

If the condition does not improve with light therapy and diet changes, cognitive behavioral therapy can also be effective.  In addition to adding the recommended foods to your diet, you should also drink plenty of water, preferably with fresh lemon juice every day.

If the symptoms persist for several weeks, a psychological evaluation is recommended to ensure that the cause of the problem is not another illness.  This will allow the psychologist to decide on the right course of treatment for the patient.

Your doctor will recommend a physical exam that will reveal any underlying physical problems.

Light therapy is considered the most effective treatment for the condition.  By exposing the brain to light, the brain’s response to seasonal stress is improved, which may lead to improved mood and physical health.  A bright lightbox simulates the sun’s rays and can be effective in managing the symptoms of SAD.  It is also crucial to avoid stress as much as possible.  Meditation and outdoor walks can also be helpful to alleviate the condition and improve your overall mood.

While many people are unaware of their SAD condition, it is important to understand what causes it.  The symptoms of SAD can be unpredictable, but they can be treated.  A good approach to getting the condition under control is to combine cognitive-behavioral therapy with light therapy and diet changes.  It is also advisable to avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can make SAD worse.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect every aspect of your life and can result in worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Take the first step to understand this disorder and get the help you need to ease the symptoms.

The caring staff at Riverview CMHC are well-trained to treat seasonal affective disorder and we are here to help.