As the name suggests, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, manifests when a person develops a sensitivity to the lessening of natural sunlight during winter. Unlike the classic “winter blues” that many people occasionally experience, this form of depression is not of normal occurrence, and can lead to severe consequences.
Research indicates that up to 20 percent of individuals in the US suffer from this condition. It affects both men and women, although the gentle gender is slightly more prone to the disorder. Besides, Seasonal depression is not an age-specific disorder, and therefore it affects Teenagers, adults, and older individuals in the same way.
You may be wondering how to help someone with seasonal affective disorder, particularly if the person is a close friend or loved one. Fortunately, treatments are available for this condition, from Travelling to a sunnier climate during winter to the use of a light therapy box.
Symptoms of Seasonal Depression
There is a vast array of symptoms associated with SAD, which can make it challenging to diagnose. Although only a licensed healthcare practitioner can make a definitive diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder, the following symptoms are the most common:
- Inability to concentrate
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of interest in activities one previously found enjoyable
- Sluggish movements and fatigue
- The need for additional sleep
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Irritability and anxiety
- Lack of interest in social activities
When researching how to help someone with seasonal affective disorder, you will quickly discover that most people who suffer from the condition begin to experience symptoms when daylight hours decrease at the onset of winter. That is because human bodies respond to sunlight by changing neurotransmitter levels and hormonal balances. For that very reason, the change of season experienced in most parts of the country can lead to chemical imbalances in the brain and ultimately, depression.
Light Therapy for SAD
Not surprisingly, treatments for seasonal affective disorder focus on increasing the person’s exposure to natural sunlight by utilizing full-spectrum, blue, or red light therapy devices which transmit light that is very similar to natural sunshine with regard to wavelength and brightness. Several differences exist between Blue vs Red vs White Light Therapy, but they all aim at relieving SAD symptoms.
That treatment usually requires the use of a Light Therapy Box for 30 to 60 minutes. During that period, the body’s natural release of melatonin is suppressed, allowing the person’s system to better maintain proper circadian rhythm, which is vital to a healthy mental state.
Light Therapy Glasses
Light Therapy Glasses are another excellent treatment for SAD, and they are highly convenient because you can wear them and experience the sunlight effect while doing any other activity. If a loved one, with a busy lifestyle, is suffering from SAD, you can get them one of these special glasses as a gift.
Red Light Therapy for SAD and Chronic Pain
Although this may seem like a new arthritis treatment, light therapy is actually a scientifically-backed method that has been used to reduce inflammation and pain for over four decades.
Other Helpful Approaches
In addition to the therapy devices mentioned above, those suffering from seasonal depression may also find it helpful to increase their vitamin D intake: a lack of vitamin D has been linked to all types of depression, including SAD. This is because appropriate levels of vitamin D are vital to a healthy state of mind. Simply get the sufferer a Vitamin D Lamp or some supplements, and they will notice an improvement in no time. Simple activities such as taking a walk when weather permits can naturally boost a person’s vitamin D levels.
Those for whom traveling is a reality should consider a few brief trips throughout winter to sunnier regions, where daylight exposure is better, such as California or Florida.
Aromatherapy is highly recommended as well and is a good complementary treatment for those afflicted with SAD. The best scents for this condition include sweet orange, lime, clary sage, bergamot and basil.
It is also important to exercise on a daily basis when experiencing seasonal depressive disorders, as this activity can regulate hormonal releases and enhances the mood of the sufferer.
Although being excellent solution, the results of the above recommendations can vary from one individual to the other. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the best device or therapy to completely eradicate symptoms. Fortunately, no one must suffer silently from seasonal affective disorder, as help is readily available.
If you or someone you love is afflicted with SAD, do not hesitate to pay your doctor a visit, as he is the best suited to help in this situation if the above tips fail.