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12 Signs You May Have Seasonal Affective Disorder
Author : Carolyn Eagle, Senior Editor, Health Media Today Category : Depression
Canadian winters are amongst the most challenging in the world so it’s no surprise when we experience the winter blues once in a while. But, for 2 to 6% of Canadians, fall and winter can lead to a true mental health challenge: Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). It is estimated that a further 15% of Canadians will experience a milder form of this disorder in their lifetime as well. What differentiates S.A.D. from a case of the winter blahs and what should you do if you suspect you or somebody you care about needs help? Those are the questions we are here to answer.
Primary Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lethargy (low energy) and tiredness: This includes the need to nap during the day
Oversleeping: Needing more hours a night than you do at other times of the year or feeling you need a nap even after a good night’s sleep.
Difficulty concentrating: Whether from an overall feeling of fatigue or persistent low mood
Over eating: Many S.A.D. sufferers have a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain: Often caused by increased carbs and a lack of exercise
Being less active than normal: Feeling unable to do your usual fitness routine or staying home on the couch more often
Irritability: Problems getting along with other people who you normally have no problem being around.
Feeling stressed or anxious by situations that would not have bothered you in the past.
Withdrawing from social contacts: Avoiding parties or outings you would have enjoyed in the past.
Loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
Heavy leaden feeling in the arms or legs
Reduced sex drive
Light Therapy (Phototherapy):
You can purchase light boxes, visors, or lamps which contain specialized fluorescent light covered with a plastic screen to block the harmful ultraviolet light. Using light therapy 15 minutes to 1 ½ hours a day will help to stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress its natural release of melatonin, helping you to feel more wakeful and energetic.
Maximizing natural daylight:
Try to increase your exposure to daylight by making sure you sit near a window at home or work, or even getting up earlier to get more daylight each day. You can even maximize the light in your home with lighter pain colours and keeping the drapes wide open during the sunnier times of the day.
Talking it out:
Seek the help of a therapist, psychotherapist, or doctor to talk through your feelings and symptoms. They can help make a clear diagnosis and determine whether other forms of treatment are needed.
Since S.A.D is a form of depression, you may need a prescribed anti-depressant to overcome the worst of the symptoms. SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most popular form of antidepressant prescribed. They increase the level of the hormone serotonin in your brain, which can help to lift your mood. Be aware that antidepressants can take up to 6 weeks to reach full effectiveness.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:
Try to get as much exercise as possible and eat healthy foods. Try to spend time outdoors going for walks, or enjoying winter activities.
Keep a Regular Schedule:
People with S.A.D. tend to over-sleep so try to get to bed the same time every night and get up at the same time every day – even on weekends. Maintaining a regular meal schedule can also help with the tendency to over-eat and gain weight during the winter months.