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Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Prevent SAD this Season

As the summer months come to a close and the air begins to cool, there is much to look forward to. Changing leaves, carving pumpkins, and pumpkin-spiced treats. However, this time of year also brings about shortened days, less sunlight, and colder temperatures that can keep us feeling stuck inside.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that can be caused by seasonal changes and can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals. As the seasons change and the risk of SAD increases, it’s important to remain prepared with tools that can prevent and alleviate symptoms all winter long.


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include:

  • Feelings of sadness and other symptoms of depression

  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns

  • Fatigue and lack of energy

  • Irritability

  • Social withdrawal


Researchers are not sure exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder, but hypothesize that it could be associated with the disturbance of an individual’s circadian rhythm. Changes in sunlight exposure, time spent outside, and even temperature can all impact the body in many different ways, which may contribute to the development of these symptoms.


If you have experienced these symptoms in previous seasons, you are not alone. In fact, “In a given year, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal affective disorder, with symptoms present for about 40 percent of the year” (Kurlansik & Ibay, 2012).


If you are a part of the population that suffers from seasonal affective disorder, it is important to consult with a professional to determine the best treatment approach.


Some of the most common and effective treatment interventions include:


Therapy

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and depression can be difficult to handle on your own. Seeking assistance from a counselor is a great way to allow yourself the space to talk through and process any negative feelings and develop healthy coping strategies to incorporate into your life.


Maintaining a schedule

Parallel to treating depression, there are things to implement into your lifestyle that can aid in decreasing some of the negative symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Developing and remaining consistent with a healthy sleep and eating schedule may be effective in the treatment of symptoms of depression and SAD.


Movement

Incorporating physical exercise, especially when spending time outdoors, can boost mood and energy levels.


Medication

Depending on the severity of your individual experience, the incorporation of SSRI’s may be beneficial in alleviating some of the negative symptoms caused by depression and seasonal affective disorder


Light Therapy

According to Rosenblum, “In this treatment, a person is exposed to light that is 5-20 times brighter than regular indoor lighting by sitting close to a light box for 15 minutes to a few hours a day. The length of time and intensity of the light can vary depending on a person's needs and the equipment used”

It’s important to prioritize mental health year-round, but entering a new season can serve as a wonderful reminder to self-assess and ask for help when it’s needed. Remaining proactive will provide you with the best defense against symptoms of seasonal affective disorder throughout the autumn and winter months.



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