Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Light Therapy Treatment

2013-03-05 | |
Last updated: 2014-11-25

While you may not have heard of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short, the condition is a relatively common form of depression and many of us have suffered from it at least once. It occurs most often during the fall and winter when the days become shorter. The prevailing opinion by the medical community is that the condition results from decreased exposure to sunlight and the colder temperatures experienced at these times of year. That said, some people suffer from this disorder during the summer, but this is a fairly rare occurrence.

To know whether you or a family member is suffering from this disorder or not, it is important to know and understand the symptoms observed in patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Let us start with the most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

The Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

There are many symptoms that can be a sign of SAD. Some of them may occur at once or at different times, so it can be rather difficult to determine whether someone is really suffering from seasonal affective disorder or another mood-related problem. Some of the most common symptoms are constant tiredness and fatigue, mild depression, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep, overeating, body aches, and loss of sex drive. Overeating is common for people who suffer from SAD during the winter and it is frequently associated with drastic weight gain.

In contrast, the symptoms experienced in the summer by those with SAD are slightly different but include loss of appetite, weight loss, difficult concentrating, crying spells and irritability. In some rare cases, regardless of the time of year, seasonal affective disorder may even lead to thoughts of suicide.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

There are several theories about what may cause seasonal affective disorder. The most common theory is that the reduced amount of sunlight during the winter influences on the chemicals in the brain and therefore influences our mood. However, medical researchers are still not sure why this occurs and how exactly the lack of sunlight affects the human brain. Many of the people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder also have low vitamin D levels in their blood because of the lack of sunlight. Despite the low levels of Vitamin D, scientists are of the opinion that the lack of vitamin D is not the reason for most symptoms.

Treatment Options For Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

There is currently no gauranteed treament for seasonal affective disorders, but there are some actions that people can take to try to prevent the condition. People who suffer from SAD during the winter should try and spend more time exposed to bright light. For example, they can spend time in rooms with fluorescent lamps or outside during the day. Another option for some people is to go on a vacation to a place where the climate is warmer and characterized by brighter light. Increased social support and communication with other people is also a great way to cope with or sometimes prevent seasonal affective disorder.

Another proven method for managing SAD is through the use of light therapy treatment in which light boxes are used to cause a chemical change in the brain to lift ones mood up to a normal level. Such light boxes, also called phototherapy boxes and bright light therapy boxes, can be used for 30 minutes daily in the morning. These lights are also used to moderate the sleep cycles around the clock to maintain a more consistent mental state. This treatment can also safely be combined with psychological counseling and drug therapies for greater benefit.

Though the purpose of all light boxes is the same, a person may find that one type works better than another so it is important to try several if one does not prove to be effective.

Shah is an online blogger and writer interested in writing for various niches including health and science. If you are looking for a reliable solution to seasonal affective disorder, you can rely upon light therapy treatment along with psychological and medical care recommended by your health specialist.

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