With some gloomy days ahead this Fall and Winter, especially here in Rochester, NY it is that time of year when people struggling with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) may find themselves symptomatic. Rochester, NY is the number 10th state with the highest rate of diagnosed cases!! What is SAD, and how can you help yourself or someone you love?
What is SAD and What are the Symptoms?
SAD is a kind of depression that effects some people during certain times of the year, mostly Fall/Winter. Although most of us will experience the “blahs” when we have not seen the sun in months, folks with SAD can not just “shake it”. SAD most commonly begins during the teen years or in adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more often in women than in men.
People who live in places with long winters ( yes, us in Rochester, you know it!) are at greater risk for SAD. Symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months.
Symptoms of SAD are usually similar to other forms of depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
- Increased sleep
- Less energy and difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in work or activities that you usually enjoy
- Social withdrawal
What Should You Do?
Unfortunately, there is no “test” to see if you may be suffering with SAD. If you are not feeling like yourself, and the symptoms seem to persist, it is important to talk with your health care provider. He/She will make a diagnosis by asking you about your experience and any history. Your provider should do blood work to rule out any other medical condition that may be contributing to you not feeling well.
What is the Treatment for SAD?
SAD is treated as other forms of depression, usually with antidepressant medications. However, simple Light Therapy has been shown in research to have positive benefit in 60-80% of the people with diagnosed SAD. The most effective treatment has been found to be a combination of possible medication, light therapy, and talk therapy. There are things you can do to help yourself.
- Get exercise regularly
- Get enough rest
- Eat a healthy diet and stay away from alcohol or other illicit drugs.
- Take your medication( if you are prescribed) consistently
- Try and find a winter activity that you enjoy
Get outside! Light Therapy has been proven to be effective in combination with other interventions. Natural light is preferred, but others may be a good substitute. Light therapy consists of attaining a specific kind of light box (can be bought on Amazon). You will sit in front of the light for varying times depending on the “Lux” of your light box. For example: a 25,0000 Lux light box would require sitting for 20 minutes, with the box 18 inches from your face. That is worth it!!
If you are feeling worse, or having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, it is important that you talk to someone immediately. Often SAD will lift with the change in seasons, but with additional treatment, people can get relief of symptoms quicker.
Let us know if you have any other questions, and we are happy to help. Winters can be long and hard…but Spring always comes. A chance for new changes!