What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Depression-like symptoms associated with the winter season are sometimes characterized as Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from SAD. Telepsychiatry has been successfully used in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

SAD Symptoms

If you find your mood sinking as the temperature drops in late fall, you might suffer from SAD. While the condition can coexist with major depression, you may feel significantly better when the weather warms up.

These additional symptoms might apply to you as well:

  • Lethargic or tired all of the time
  • Grouchy
  • Weight gain, sometimes accompanied by carbohydrate cravings
  • Withdrawal from social events; hibernation

Summer-onset SAD occurs in a small subset of the population. The conditions are somewhat reversed from the winter, with anxiety and excessive energy topping the list. Insomnia, agitation and restlessness mark this form of the disorder. Violent outbreaks sometimes occur if the condition goes untreated.

SAD Causes

While being a woman increases the chance you will experience SAD, so does your age. Younger people and people with a family history containing forms of depression, including bipolar disorder, are more at risk.

Your biological clock might experience disruptions due to reduced sunlight exposure. Poorly regulated levels of serotonin and melatonin are also indicated as contributing factors. Low levels of vitamin D can also exacerbate the disorder according to NIMH.

Shortened days in the winter can contribute, which means those who live farther from the equator experience greater risks than folks who reside in tropical zones.

SAD Treatments

The good news is that the disorder is treatable. During a traditional visit or a telepsychiatry session, you can work with your practitioner to develop a comprehensive plan so you can start feeling better soon.

Due to the many factors that can contribute to SAD, it is best to approach treatment from multiple angles. For instance, light therapy is one of the most recommended for SAD patients. Proper light exposure can help people, whether or not they are near the equator.

Exposure to natural light and light therapy boxes in the early morning are both effective for improving vitamin D levels and hormone regulation. When utilizing a therapy box, it is important to understand the different models and to choose the correct one for your needs. Speak with your provider to find out which features and specs you need to check out.

Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, can be used to blunt the worst symptoms of the condition while other treatment protocols are being used. While it can help, it is not a permanent solution. Only a qualified medical doctor can determine if this or another type of anti-depressant is appropriate.

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, can be done in an office setting. This form of treatment also lends itself well to telepsychiatry, which gives you the option to discuss your feelings and work out treatment plans from the comfort of your home. For those with extreme anxiety regarding leaving the home, this can be quite beneficial.

Boost your mental and physical health by consuming plenty of fresh produce, whole grains and healthy proteins. Along with daily exercise and your SAD treatment protocol, you will be well on your way toward turning the tide on your disorder. You deserve to feel like yourself again!

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