Hey There Friends! Today I have a guest post for you about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I thought the timing was perfect, since we set the clocks back over the weekend. Kimberly blogs over at http://publichealthalert.info/. While I was never diagnosed with SAD, my depression symptoms definitely got worse in the winter months. Now that I’ve lived in Florida for a few years, I can definitely see the difference that even a few cloudy days makes in my mood. If I ever moved back to a state that experienced winter, I would definitely need to talk to a doctor and look at some of these options.
Overcoming Dark Thoughts With Bright Light: Treatment for People With SAD
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a fairly common affliction that depletes one’s energy and can cause severe depression. However, common as it may be, scientists are still not certain what causes it. Some contend that the change of seasons disrupts the circadian clock that governs our natural sleeping/waking functions. Still others say it’s caused by a disruption of the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which regulate mood and sleep.
Whatever the precise cause, up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, making it a problem of sufficient scope and seriousness that treatment is essential to help those who struggle with the debilitating effects of depression.
Phototherapy, or bright light therapy, is a key treatment for SAD because it addresses what many consider the root of the problem: the disruption of circadian rhythms and the hormone melatonin. Patients sit in front of a light box, which contains a bank of white light bulbs, for about a half-hour per session (exposure first thing in the morning is generally considered most effective). The light mimics sunshine (with a minimum intensity of 2,500 lux) and is thought to help regulate the brain’s natural rhythms. In most cases, patients continue using the light box throughout the winter, or whenever they’re most impacted.
Light therapy is an agile form of treatment, as individuals undergoing the therapy can take the light box with them to work and undergo exposure as needed throughout the day. Light therapy is sufficiently effective that it can often be used as a replacement for medication for individuals with seasonal depression.
Simulating the dawn
During the long, dark days of winter many people find it oppressive to wake up in the dark and drive home from work in the dark, with little time for exposure to natural light in between. Sometimes, a healthy jump-start can make the difference for an individual suffering the effects of SAD. Dawn simulators act like alarm clocks, but instead of jolting you awake with a loud blast of noise or music, it wakes you up with gradually increasing light, simulating the rising sun which is too often absent during the winter months.
They come in varying size and intensity, but the best ones employ full-spectrum light to approximate the sun. In some cases, dawn simulators are as effective as light therapy boxes in their ability to regulate the release of melatonin and alleviate the suffering of those struggling with depression.
In more severe cases, antidepressants may be prescribed and often provide needed help where light therapy is ineffective. Consult your doctor as soon as you begin feeling the depressive symptoms of SAD so she can coordinate the prescription of antidepressants to maximize their effectiveness.
Everyone has their own way of boosting their mood and taking their mind off problems. Many people find solace in the company of friends and family during the winter, an excellent distraction from gloomy thoughts. Others find release in journaling and recording thoughts and feelings and carrying on a dialogue with themselves. Don’t overlook the importance of gut health and its connection to your mental well-being; get to know your gut flora and use prebiotics or probiotics, as needed.
Vision is the sense most centrally involved in the treatment of SAD, though there are ways to lessen a patient’s suffering through other stimuli. Aromatherapy, with its use of essential oils, can make a positive impact on those parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood and sleep. The oils can be disseminated through a diffuser or by adding a few drops in one’s bath water at night before bed or first thing in the morning.
As a form of therapy, aromatherapy works by addressing receptors in the nose that link to sections of the brain that store memories and emotions so that the brain is powerfully stimulated by essential oils, which thus have a healing effect.
The cold winter months have a way of making many people feel despondent and at odds with the world. If self-care tactics don’t seem to help, discuss other treatment options with your health care professional. There may be natural options that render prescriptive medications unnecessary.
This is a guest post and may contain affiliate links, from which I may receive income. While I am an ACE Certified Health Coach and Personal Trainer I am not a medical professional and the information provided in this post is not to be considered medical advice. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of depression or SAD please reach out to someone you trust, including a medical professional.
Courtesy of Pixabay.com.