Do you tend to feel down in the dumps during the winter? Is it hard to get going in the middle of February? You may think that this is just a natural reaction to the cold and dark, but if you feel unusually depressed during the winter, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
This disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that afflicts people during certain times of the year. It is most commonly experienced during the winter, but people can suffer from SAD during any season. The defining characteristic of seasonal affective disorder is that it occurs at the same time each year and goes away during other seasons.
SAD can affect anyone, but occurs more commonly among people who live in areas with pronounced changes from season to season. Women tend to suffer from seasonal affective disorder more frequently than men. The disorder most commonly occurs between the ages of 15 and 55. It also tends to run in families, so if you have a close relative who suffers from SAD, you are more likely to suffer from it as well.
The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include feelings of sadness, irritability, and anxiety, a loss of energy, difficulty focusing on daily activities, and a tendency to eat more and gain weight. You may also find yourself sleeping more and having a hard time staying awake during the day. If you have SAD, your symptoms will recur at the same time each year.
The causes of seasonal affective disorder are unclear, but most researchers believe that the disorder is related to the amount of sunlight. Your body’s circadian rhythms are regulated by the amount of daylight. As this changes through the year, your brain may have difficulty regulating your body. In some cases, the levels of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that affects your mood, may be disrupted.
Since the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder overlap with those of depression, distinguishing the two disorders can be difficult. To determine whether or not you are suffering from SAD, your doctor will ask you a number of questions about when your symptoms occur. This way, he can determine whether your symptoms are displaying the seasonal regularity which is diagnostic of this disorder.
One of the most effective treatments for seasonal affective disorder is the use of light therapy. Since the disorder seems to be related to a lack of exposure to sunlight, exposing you to more light can provide relief. There are two main ways in which light is used to treat SAD.
A light box can be used to provide bright light treatment. In the morning, you will sit in front of the box for about half an hour. The other technique is to provide a simulated dawn in the morning. A dim light comes on as you are sleeping, and the light slowly brightens to simulate the sunrise.
Seasonal affective disorder can be difficult to deal with, but there are effective treatments that can provide relief from your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned that you are suffering from SAD.
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Article Source: Symptoms And Treatment Of Seasonal Affective Disorder By Catherine Quel