The winter season is coming up and there’s so much to look forward to with the Holidays, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving coming up. For some of us, the season also brings other less cheerful things. One of those things is seasonal affective disorder.
We want everyone to have the most enjoyable Holiday Season possible. So we are sharing with you five seasonal affective disorder treatments and some tips for managing it at home.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that begins and ends with some seasons. Seasonal affective disorder usually affects persons during the winter months, during the fall months, and sometimes in summer. Some may find their depression is to a debilitating degree while others may have the more mild ‘winter blues’.
SAD affects more women than men and presents itself during the adult years. Seasonal Affective Disorder is rarely seen in those younger than 20 years old. Seasonal affective disorder is also more popular among those who live further away from the equator.
While SAD is most commonly experienced during the winter (sometimes referred to as winter depression), it can occur in the summer months as well, where it is sometimes referred to as summer depression.
Seasonal affective disorder is most often seen in those who have family histories of bipolar disorder, depression or seasonal depression. People who get SAD usually have trouble regulating their serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps us regulate our mood.
During the summer months, sunlight naturally assists with mood regulation because it boosts your serotonin levels. However, with winter having decreased sunlight, serotonin levels decrease as well. The result for some of us is seasonal affective disorder.
People with seasonal affective disorder may also be overproducing melatonin, which is a sleep hormone. Melatonin responds to darkness and makes us sleepy. With the winter months being the darker months, those with SAD may become drowsy and lethargic.
Also, with the winter months restricting the amount of sunlight on your skin, there will be a reduction in the amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to regulate serotonin levels, and Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to significant depressive symptoms. This makes seasonal affective disorder worse.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder tend to look a lot like major depressive disorder. The distinguishing factor though is SAD goes away after the winter season.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:
As you can see, seasonal affective disorder resembles regular depression. For this reason, seasonal affective disorder treatments may resemble treatment for major depressive disorder. The difference between MDD and SAD is that seasonal affective disorder symptoms resolve themselves after the winter season. It is important to keep in mind that the above symptoms could also be indicators of other medical conditions. So it’s best to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment involves exploring different methods for raising your serotonin levels during these times. If you suspect you may struggle with SAD, talk to your healthcare professional about exploring these seasonal depression treatment options:
1. Light Therapy
3. Vitamin D Supplements
Since the most significant trigger for seasonal affective disorder is reduced exposure to sunlight, light therapy seems like a natural treatment option. This seasonal affective disorder treatment option involves attempting to replace sunlight with bright artificial light. For this reason, light therapy is also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy.
In a light therapy treatment session, you are asked to sit in front of a light box each morning from early fall until spring. When used for between 20 and 60 minutes, this SAD treatment method has been found to be very effective. Talk to your therapist about light therapy to see if it’s right for you.
You also have the option to purchase your own SAD lamp on Amazon or other online marketplaces and attempt treatment yourself in the comfort of your home. Lamps range from $20 up to a couple of hundred dollars, so be sure to read the reviews from other purchasers before you buy.
Similar to other cases of depression, seasonal affective disorder is the result of insufficient levels of serotonin in the brain. There is an issue with the brain’s ability to produce serotonin. So, antidepressants can help with SAD treatment. In fact, the Can-SAD study found that the antidepressant fluoxetine was just as effective as light therapy as a SAD treatment. It was also just as well-tolerated as light therapy in patients with seasonal affective disorder. Fluoxetine was also found to be more cost-effective.
Also, in some cases, starting an antidepressant, such as Bupropion before the onset of depression prevents seasonal affective disorder from recurring. It is important to remember that all medications have potential side effects. In a Cochrane review of second-generation antidepressants (SGA) in relation to seasonal affective disorder, 27% of participants withdrew from the study because of adverse effects. So be sure to discuss possible side effects with your doctor.
As mentioned before, low vitamin D levels affect your ability to regulate your serotonin levels. Vitamin D is primarily absorbed through the skin from sunlight. With sunlight reduced during the winter months, this compounds the issue for those of us who get seasonal affective disorder. Struggling with seasonal affective disorder means the brain has trouble regulating serotonin levels on its own.
Low vitamin D can worsen the issue since low vitamin D levels are associated with depression. Studies have shown that taking vitamin D daily is an effective SAD treatment. In fact, topping up on vitamin D supplements before the winter season and the onset of SAD may also prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder.
Work with your healthcare professional to determine if this seasonal depression treatment is right for you and in what dosage. It’s also important to remember that it is possible to suffer from vitamin D toxicity. Vitamin D toxicity is rare but can occur with Vitamin D dosages of more than 50,000 IU per day.
Therapy is an excellent way to support those with seasonal affective disorder. In fact, it is the recommended starting place to find seasonal affective disorder treatment options. In a psychotherapy session, you can have SAD treatment tailored to your unique needs. One very effective form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also known as CBT.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps those with seasonal affective disorder to change and incorporate habits that help them regulate their serotonin levels. In fact, two 90-minute sessions of CBT per week have the same effect as 30 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light each morning.
Cognitive behavioral therapy effectively helps those with seasonal depression disorder to break down overwhelming problems and see them from another perspective. Essentially, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you to think about your problems from another perspective.
In addition, changing your perspective on feeling sad and low energy may also be incorporated into your SAD therapy session.
Hypnosis is the process of guiding an individual into a relaxed state that promotes focus. In this focused state, there is greater access to subconscious mechanisms guiding behavior. If the individual is interested, they are receptive to suggestions that can help them release poor habits and discuss feelings and emotions without raising anxiety and stress levels.
Created by Michele Guy Syne, Hybrid-Hypnosis™ is the process of combining hypnosis with other powerful tools and healing methods to help one find quick and lasting relief from the issues that hinder their growth and progress on a daily basis.
Hybrid-Hypnosis™ is an effective seasonal affective disorder treatment because it not only resolves the emotions brought about due to SAD, it also resolves the core issues causing you stress, anxiety and self-doubt. Hybrid-Hypnosis™ helps those suffering from seasonal affective disorder to access and eliminate unconscious thought patterns that produce a depressive outlook on life.
For this reason, Hybrid-Hypnosis™ is great in conjunction with other seasonal affective disorder treatment options such as light therapy and Vitamin D.
If none of the SAD treatment methods above are immediately available to you, there are still a few things you can do to help. While you work on accessing SAD treatment you might make yourself a bit more comfortable by:
No or insufficient sleep has been known to impact our mood and overall ability to function. It can also make depression symptoms worse. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Also, incorporate a bedtime routine to cue your mind that it’s almost time to sleep. Turn off the television, router, and mobile devices (or at the very least put them on airplane mode).
Even if you have trouble sleeping when in bed, lay in bed until you fall asleep. These acts of routine are helpful even if your circadian rhythm is thrown off. What you are doing is giving your mind psychological cues that it’s time to get some rest. So resist the urge to watch that extra few episodes of your latest binge obsession. Instead, get some sleep in and come back to them tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.
Exercise and physical activity are known to relieve stress and anxiety symptoms. Dealing with stress and anxiety symptoms while being affected by seasonal affective disorder can improve matters.
Exercise is also one way of boosting your serotonin levels. You may decide to pick up yoga, start a gym membership or pick up a winter sport. Sing and dance to your favorite music in your living room or do some jumping jacks as you get out of bed. Do whatever feels right for you, but try to start and maintain an exercise routine.
Even though there is minimal sunshine, outdoor light is still helpful. Though snow days are obviously indoor days, on other days it can help to eat lunch at the park, take a long walk or simply sit soaking up the rays. A few hours outside could really help your mood. A word of warning – even though you might not see or feel direct sunshine, you should still put on your sunscreen to block out harmful UV rays and protect your skin.
Though seasonal affective disorder can put a damper on the holidays, the great news is there are SAD treatment options available. Whether you choose to use light therapy, antidepressants, vitamin D supplements, psychotherapy, or Hybrid Hypnosis, you will no doubt find some relief for your symptoms. Though there is no surefire seasonal depression cure, the best part of all this is once the winter (or summer) season is over you will be back to your chipper self.
Michele Guy Syne, P.E., P.Eng., C.Ht., Owner of UniQuely Northern, uses the power of the subconscious mind with a Hybrid-Hypnosis™ to quickly, and gently help people like you around the world overcome and remove blockages and negative emotions that hinder you from living an inspired life.
At UniQuely Northern, you can overcome SAD and other issues that plague you through:
Curious about how a hybrid hypnosis session works? You can watch this video of a hypnosis session to see Michele in action and get an idea of how Hybrid-Hypnosis™ works, become a member and get support along your journey, or book an intake session.
Michele Guy Syne, P.E., P.Eng., C.Ht., owner of UniQuely Northern, uses the power of the subconscious mind with a hybrid-hypnosis to quickly, and gently release stress, anxiety, painful memories, and emotional trauma to free you up to live your life powerfully, and live a life you Love. Michele does sessions in person, and via Zoom from her office in Carefree.
Email: [email protected]