Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a common disorder that can affect anyone regardless of age, race, or gender. People who struggle with this disorder experience a type of depression in a seasonal cycle. Most people typically experience this condition during the fall and winter months when days are shorter and there is less light, causing them to feel lethargic and unmotivated.
People in more northern regions of the world may have a higher chance of experiencing this disorder than others. For example, it can be dark nearly 24 hours a day in parts of Alaska during the winter, making Alaskans particularly at risk for developing SAD. While many people who grew up in this state are somewhat used to it, this adjustment can be more of a challenge for those who move there as adults. Luckily, there are things that Alaskans can do to combat this disorder.
Researchers aren't exactly sure what causes an individual to experience SAD. However, they suspect it has to do with changes in chemicals in the brain due to less natural light in the winter. Sunlight is connected with increasing a neurotransmitter called serotonin. This chemical helps to regulate mood and is also associated with the reward center of the brain. It can also help regulate proper digestion. When someone is not exposed to enough sunlight over time, their serotonin levels can go down and affect their mood. They can begin to experience symptoms like:
For those who are suffering from SAD and have symptoms that are beginning to affect their day-to-day life, it may be time to speak with a doctor about these feelings. Not only will they be able to provide a diagnosis, but they can recommend various methods of treatment such as medication, working with a therapist, Vitamin D supplements, or trying light therapy.
Light therapy has been around for many years but hasn't gotten much public attention until recently. This unique form of treatment can help some people who struggle with SAD. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a special light box that mimics natural sunlight every day for 30 to 40 minutes. This can be done while doing paperwork, reading a book, or even working on a computer. These lightboxes can be purchased in a variety of stores and even online. The purpose of this practice is to receive natural-like light even when the sun doesn't come up or is hidden most of the day. This can help elevate one's mood by increasing serotonin production and regulating sleep hormones.
In addition to traditional treatment recommended by a medical professional, there are other things an individual can do on a day-to-day basis that can help them combat the symptoms of SAD. Some examples include implementing routines, maintaining physical health, and finding ways to get out of the house and be social.
The intense and possibly overwhelming darkness that can occur during winter can cause some individuals to struggle mentally differentiating between the workday and their personal time to relax or when it's time to wake up versus go to sleep. As such, they may find it difficult to calm down in the evenings and prepare themselves for sleep. One of the best ways to combat this is to create and stick to a bedtime routine. Some ways of doing this include allowing at least an hour to prepare for bed each night and trying to go to bed at the same time every day. Avoid using a cellphone or watching television as the blue light from these devices can activate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
It's important that those who struggle with mental health disorders like SAD to be careful to maintain their physical health by eating nutritious well-balanced meals and exercising regularly. Good physical health promotes good mental health, and daily exercise and a balanced diet can help regulate sleep patterns and emotional wellness.
For those who suffer from this disorder, it is incredibly important that they get up and out of the house even on days that are dark and cloudy. Staying active and keeping social can combat the symptoms of SAD by giving them something to look forward to and alleviating loneliness.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a common disorder that affects many people throughout the United States. SAD is a type of depressive disorder associated with the shortening of days and decreased light that often occurs in the fall and winter months. This type of disorder is often associated with feelings of anxiety, depression, lethargy, and a lack of motivation. This disorder can be especially prominent in states like Alaska where it can be dark for most of the day in the winter. Luckily, there are ways Alaskans can combat this condition. Some examples include ingesting more Vitamin D, trying light therapy, working with a therapist, or trying prescription medication. If you're currently struggling with your mental health, our team at SokyaHealth can help. Call (866) 657-6592 today to learn more about how our skilled and compassionate team can help you achieve better mental health.