What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder or depressive disorder that usually affects people during the darker months. This is a form of depression that occurs every year at the same time; for most patients, it starts in fall, gets worse in winter, and then ends in spring.

Often times it is referred to as “the winter blues”, but SAD is actually more severe than the “cabin fever” or the winter blues. In some rare cases, it can also impact people during the summer months.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 10 million people in the US suffer from SAD during the winter, and 10 to 20 percent experience “the winter blues” each year.

SAD is related to changes in seasons, so if you are like most people who suffer from SAD, you will feel moody and sluggish during the late fall and entire winter, before feeling better as the spring comes around.

Seasonal affective disorder is more common in young adults and women, however, children and teenagers can also experience SAD. Older adults (55+ years) are less likely to be affected by SAD. It is also more common in people who live at higher altitudes or cloudy regions.

It is important to not brush off this yearly listless feeling as just a seasonal funk that you “need to tough out” on your own. This is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

Here are some of the most common signs of SAD during the winter season:

  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to focus
  • Feeling of hopelessness or guilt
  • Lack of energy and constant fatigue
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Loss of interest in social activities (like going out with friends), and usual day-to-day activities
  •  Increased craving for carbohydrates (sweet and starchy foods), and weight gain
what is seasonal affective disorder

However, people suffering from SAD during the summer may show the following signs:

  • Loss of appetite or abnormally reduced appetite
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss

Please keep in mind that everyone is different, so not everyone who has SAD will show the same signs.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder tend to return year after year, and they generally come-and-go at the same time every year. If any of these symptoms seem familiar to you, it’s best to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We know from well-understood studies that lack of light lowers brain serotonin – a mood elevator – and raises brain melatonin – causing drowsiness.  So, bright light therapy raises serotonin and elevates mood, while suppressing melatonin and sensations of wakefulness.

This is why many medical professionals recommend bright light therapy to combat the symptoms of SAD. Daily exposure to sunlight or a bright light has shown to correct the sleep patterns, mood disorders, and imbalances caused by lack of light.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect you have seasonal affective disorder, consult with your doctor. They may perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and feelings in general. They will also need to rule out other conditions that may be causing you to experience the symptoms similar to SAD.

If it turns out that you are indeed experiencing SAD, your doctor may suggest medication or light therapy. Physicians have been using light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder since the 1980s.  You will not have to sit in front of a special light box every day for 20 to 60 minutes.  The Feel Bright Light allows you to be up and around while receiving your light dose.

The bright white light has shown to change the chemical composition in the brain to regulate mood. If you live in a region where sunlight is scarce, a bright light can be pivotal in improving your health and happiness!

Are You Battling Seasonal Depression? Discover What Feel Bright Light Can Do For You

If you are feeling low or battling with mood changes, Feel Bright Light is the right solution to rejuvenate your inner being. Since 1984, Feel Bright Light has served as a treatment option for people suffering from seasonal depression issues. Visit our products page to discover the wonder of Feel Bright Light for yourself or call us toll-free at 207-935-1256.

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