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.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a medical term that’s used to describe a form of depression which is directly related to seasonal changes, specifically the fall and winter season when there is a lesser amount of natural lighting.
Statistics demonstrate that as much as 20% of people within the United States, experience this type of condition. It is prevalent in women and men, but women are more susceptible to the effects of SAD.
It’s also worth noting, that since this is not an age-related condition, it can affect adults just as much as it can affect teenagers.
If your loved one suffers from this condition, you may have been wondering how you can help to alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available with red light therapy, being the most effective solution that’s available.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
The medical community is still conducting studies and various tests to determine the exact root causes of SAD.
However, the one thing the medical community does agree on is the fact that a lack of natural lighting from the sun, can trigger symptoms in people who are prone to getting this condition.
On the flipside, while scientist do not know why people get this condition, some of the risk factors that raises an individual’s chances of getting this condition include:
Brain Chemical Imbalance
Most antidepressant medications that work to treat anxiety and depression work by raising neurotransmitter production in the brain.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin are responsible for the communication that occurs between nerves and is partially responsible for regulating our moods.
People who naturally suffer from a chemical imbalance such as low serotonin levels are at a greater risk of experiencing the symptoms of SAD.
Biological Clock Change
Whenever we experience less exposure to natural lighting, our biological clocks shift.
Our biological clock is responsible for regulating hormone production, sleep and mood.
Therefore, a change in sunlight exposure can cause our body’s biological clock to struggle to regulate our moods.
Vitamin D is essential when it comes to creating serotonin.
Based on the fact that most people do not consume enough vitamin D within their diets, and get it from the sun instead.
When we experience less exposure to sunlight during the winter and fall seasons, it can lead to a deficiency in vitamin d.
Since the body needs vitamin d to produce serotonin, a vitamin d deficiency can lead to depression and anxiety.
People who are diagnosed with SAD typically experience anxiety, stress and negative thought processes during the winter.
However, researchers have been unable to determine if negative thought processes are an effect or cause of seasonal depression.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
In a vast majority of cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms typically occur during the winter or fall season and tend to go away during the summer and spring seasons.
The symptoms patients undergo can make day-to-day tasks difficult. Some of the symptoms that are associated with this disorder include:
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Lack of focus
- Lack of interest in activities the patient enjoyed.
- Extreme Fatigue
- Feelings of tiredness even after sleeping for 8+ hours.
- No interest in social interactions
- Feelings of despair
BEST Treatment Solutions for Seasonal Affective Disorder
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.
As mentioned above, seasonal changes and the corresponding changes in sunlight availability, causes our biological clocks to change which causes hormonal imbalances.
It’s very important that family members work with sufferers of this condition to find an ideal treatment solution because every form of depression can severely impact an individual’s ability to enjoy their lives, company of loved ones and ability to work.
Fortunately there are several treatment options available. Some of those include:
Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (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.
Red light therapy has been recognized by the medical community as being the best treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
It can be best described as being a safe, non-invasive treatment solution which consists of delivering natural light to your skin and cells.
What makes this treatment solution so ideal is that it is one of the few solutions which have been clinically proven to drastically reduce the negative effects of having SAD.
Treatment consists of being exposed to red light for two 10 minute sessions every week for a period of 2 months.
Antidepressants can help to boost your serotonin levels to offset the effects of depression.
However, experts suggest that people who suffer from SAD, should avoid medications which causes you to feel sleepy.
This is because fatigue and feeling the need to sleep longer is a symptom of SAD.
Therefore, taking medication which makes you sleepy will aggravate your underlying conditions.
However, the problem with taking antidepressants is that many users have said it brought them more problems than solutions due to the addictive nature of antidepressants and the nasty withdrawal side effects that manifest themselves when you stop.
Go Outside More Often
If you suffer from SAD, you need to go out as much as you can so that you can take advantage of whatever sunlight you are able to get.
Experts suggest that sufferers of this condition should take a stroll around the block between 11am and 1pm when the sun shines the brightest.
However, if you live in an area which experiences sub zero temperatures during the winter season, this may not be an ideal option for you and can prove to be extremely uncomfortable.
Regular Sleeping Schedule
People living with SAD struggle to get a good night’s rest.
By maintaining a strict sleeping schedule, it can help to improve sleep quality as well as to alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.
In addition to this, maintaining a sleep schedule will help to expose you to natural lighting in a predictable pattern which will help to keep your biological clock functioning efficiently.
Dawn simulators have proven to be one of the best solutions to treat this condition.
These types of devices are like alarm clocks.
But, instead of using sound to wake you up, they produce light which increases in intensity, similarly to the rising of the sun.
However, research on this treatment solution is inconsistent.
Other Helpful Approaches
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.
How Does Red Light Therapy Cure Seasonal Affective Disorders?
Red Light therapy is able to combat the symptoms of SAD in several ways.
For starters, it enhances cellular function by encouraging the mitochondria in your cells to produce more cellular energy.
With a higher amount of cellular energy, cells are able to function more efficiently such as to produce hormones like serotonin.
In fact, the wavelengths of red light are able to penetrate the surface of the skin and stimulate hormone production in the brain.
In addition to this, it also works by stimulating melatonin production. Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that is responsible for regulating our sleep patterns.
With a higher amount of melatonin production, our bodies are able to experience longer, high quality sleep sessions.
Clinical Research about Seasonal Affective Disorder
Numerous credible organizations have conducted clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of red light therapy at treating the symptoms of SAD. Some of those include:
- A study in 2017 which consisted of over 35 people who had severe depression symptoms, showed that this type of therapy was able to alleviate symptoms of depression to the point where it indicated a remission from depression all together.
- A 2018 research from one of the leading mental health researchers sought to assess the effect of red light therapy on people with major depression symptoms.
The researchers in that study concluded that red light therapy had significant antidepressant properties on patients with major depressive order.
- A doctor with over 25 years of experience with dealing with mental health disorders from UCLA Medical School, said that this type of therapy was able to catapult patients out of a depressive frame of mind, faster than any other kind of treatment solution.
Can You Safely Perform Red Light Therapy At Home?
One of the most unique things about this treatment solution is that a therapy session can be done at home. These devices have built in safety measures such as heat regulators and auto shut-off timers.
Experts highlight that certain red light therapy devices such as LED masks, are safe on all skin types.
The key thing to remember about getting at-home red light therapy devices is that the company should share the specifics on the amount of LED lights that’s used in a particular device as well as the level of which it can penetrate the skin.
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 they are best suited to help in this situation if the above tips fail.
Be sure to check out our other articles on seasonal affective disorder and look at our recommended products for helping you with seasonal affective disorder.