What is SAD?
SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even though it is categorized as a form of depression, it has its own characteristics to it. According to National Institute of Mental Health, SAD shares the same criteria as major depression. However, the “seasonal” word is there for a reason. This is because SAD is a type of depression that only occurs during the cold, darkest months. There are series of SAD episodes during summer months. However, it is less likely to happen compared to colder seasons.
Majority of SAD’s patients tend to have the same symptoms as major depression. Some of them include:
- A lack of energy
- Depressed mood
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty in focusing
- Loss of pleasure in favorite activities
- Drastic changes in appetite and sleep pattern
The symptoms above are the most common ones. Seasonal Affective Disorder can also trigger unique symptoms such as:
- Food cravings
- Heaviness in parts of the body
- Frequent oversleeping
- Relationship problems
It is highly recommended for you to get a proper diagnosis. Mental Health America suggested for a diagnosis to be done after two occurrences of SAD. This should be done if you notice the symptoms during the colder months. Even though it is categorized under depression, it is not the “lighter” version of it. SAD is a specific mental condition that only happen at a particular time of the year.
The Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some of the common causes of SAD are linked to the biochemical imbalance in the brain. A lesser amount of sunlight during the winter season can trigger SAD as well. This is why psychiatrists tend to advise the patients to make good use of LED light therapy home devices. The daylight hours can be shorter during the winter season. This can cause people to experience “winter blues”. However, it is wise to mention that Seasonal Affective Disorder is more than just the common “winter blues”.
In the United States, about 5% of the adults suffer from SAD every year. It lasts for as long as 40% of each particular year. When compared between genders, women tend to struggle with SAD more. As the seasons are changing, our biological clock will shift too. This circadian rhythm can usually be fixed with a light and sound therapy device. Researchers agreed that light therapy home devices can definitely treat SAD.
Clinical Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Even though SAD can easily be treated as the seasons are changing, clinical treatment is always recommended. In order for you to get better quickly, you should talk to a doctor. Some of the most common SAD treatments include:
- Antidepressant medications
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Light Therapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or also known as talk therapy, helps in treating SAD effectively. According to American Psychiatric Association, a talk therapy is highly beneficial. This is especially true for those with both mental and emotional problems. By going through a talk therapy, it allows the therapist to understand the mental problem more.
For those with SAD, a talk therapy will last between 30 to 50 minutes per session. There are multiple therapy settings such as individual, couple, family or group. Trust should be established first between the patient and therapist. This will ensure the treatment to work positively. Also, all talk therapies come with confidentiality as the basic requirement.
Light therapy is another SAD treatment that works successfully. The way this it works is by using a light therapy device. This light device has to emit powerful bright light. For the first few times, you might want to practice light therapy for at least 20 minutes per day. The best time to do this is early in the morning during the winter season. Most patients begin to see positive changes from LED light therapy home devices within one to two weeks. There are many affordable light therapy devices you can get for you to use at home. The best part about it is you can use them any time of the year.
The antidepressant that is commonly used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder is called SSRIs. It stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. This medicines, when used, can increase the levels of serotonin and treat the chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression, SAD, panic disorder, OCD, PMDD, and anxiety are among what SSRIs can treat. It can take up to two or three weeks for its full therapeutic effect to be noticeable.
Why Should You Use Light Therapy Devices?
The reasons behind the development of SAD have always been related to the lack of sunlight exposure. When people less exposed to the light, there is a chemical imbalance in the brain. According to NCBI, bright white light therapy helps in treating many forms of depression. This report is back up with evidence. The easiest way to explain this is that our body needs Vitamin D to function well.
When you take that Vitamin D away by unintentionally, our brain will react to this. This is why a lot of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder from fall through winter. This is because these two seasons experience the shortest daylight. Thus, the reason why a light and sound therapy device is a good choice for those who struggle with SAD.
So, how to make sure you get the best benefits out of the light therapy home device? The first thing first is to ensure that the lightbox is 10,000 lux. If you are trying to copy the heavy and full spectrum of sunlight, you cannot use the normal lamp. It is not enough. The light box should emit 20 times greater light brightness compare to indoor lighting. This is why you need it to be 10,000 lux.
The second thing is to always position your light therapy device at the eye level. The higher the better. It has to mimic the sunlight and how it emits the light. If you need to sit in front of your light box, ensure that the placement is about 2 feet away from you. In order for the light therapy really work, you should discipline yourself to use it at the same time every day. In this case, early in the morning is your best option. Spend about 20 to 60 minutes per day every morning. You will start to see the boost in your energy and mood.
Understanding SAD and Accepting It
It is a common misconception that those struggling with depression episodes like SAD is a burden. If you understand how each depression started, you will be able to treat it more effectively. SAD has similar symptoms like depression, however, it is not the common major depression. In fact, it is a seasonal mental disorder that affects at a particular time of the year. However, if left untreated for a long time, it can lead to more serious mental illnesses.