What is Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affect disorder (SAD) is a cyclic, seasonal disorder which can cause depression, anxiety, increased need for sleep, difficulty concentrating and over eating, especially sweets and carbohydrates, which can result in weight gain.
It is unknown exactly what causes seasonal affect disorder, although decreased sunlight is thought to be a major cause. SAD is more common in Northern countries where there is a major decrease in the amount of sunlight in the winter months.
Age is another factor. Very few people under the age of 20 are affected by seasonal affect disorder. It is also suspected that changes in the levels of some hormones (increased melatonin levels and decreased serotonin levels) experienced in the winter may also contribute to SAD.
It is difficult to diagnose seasonal affect disorder because it could be another form of depression that happens to coincide with the winter months. There is usually a requirement for depression in the winter months for a minimum of 2 consecutive years with a lack of depression at other times of the year for SAD to be diagnosed.
Seasonal affect disorder is usually treated with light therapy. Sometimes medication and psychotherapy are also used to treat it.
Exercise and getting outside in the sun can also help.
SOME SYMPTOMS OF SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER
• Anxiety and depression
• Loss of energy
• Social withdrawal
• Increased sleep
• Weight gain
• Difficulty concentrating
The ideal way to treat this form of depression is to get some outdoor exercise on sunny days.
When this is not possible light therapy may be used. Light therapy involves exposure to very intense infrared light.
Damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light is avoided by filtering out the UV light.
New research shows that specific wavelengths of light are more effective at treating SAD than others.
One of the side effects of light therapy can be insomnia. If light therapy is performed too late in the day it can keep you up at night.
Some people suffer from reverse seasonal affect disorder or “Summer SAD”. This occurs in the summer and is related to heat instead of light. Summer SAD results in insomnia, irritability and a loss of appetite instead of oversleeping, lethargy and overeating.
To avoid problems with insomnia you should avoid large doses of light later in the day. The room you’re trying to sleep in should be quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
Daily exercise early in the day and avoiding large meals and excessive fluid later in the day should also help.
If insomnia is still a problem there are some other natural techniques such as the cold abdominal wash and breathing techniques can also be very helpful