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Explore Effective Ways to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Updated: May 23

by Monica Smith,

During the fall and winter seasons, it is not unusual for your energy levels to be lower. As the days become shorter, darker and colder, you may want to hide behind the covers. There is a tendency to isolate and feel more lethargic than on summer days. However, if you experience a feeling of hopelessness or unworthiness and suffer an extreme loss of energy, it can be a sign that you are suffering more than the winter blues. You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is linked to increased risk of suicide. Today, Janet Myatt shares some tips and information to help you understand and avoid this all-too-common disorder.

Understanding the Problem

SAD is categorized as a type of depression that is more prevalent during certain seasons of the year. In Canada, SAD is more common in the fall and winter season. However, a few people experience it in the summer and spring seasons. The risk of SAD is greater among young women. Similarly, if you live further away from the equator, with a family history of depression, you are also at an increased risk for SAD.

Some common symptoms of SADs include feeling inadequate, hopelessness, heightened anxiety, self-loathing, agitation, guilt, sudden weight gain or weight loss, social withdrawal, feeling a need to harm yourself or frequent thoughts of suicide. If you suspect you may be suffering from SAD, consult with your doctor or a mental health professional.

SAD and Suicide Linked

There has been a consistent link between suicide and depression. Research shows that up to 90 percent people who commit suicide have an underlying mental health issue including depression. While there are several factors that contribute to being suicidal, SAD is a risk factor. However, being diagnosed with SAD does not necessarily mean that you are or will become suicidal.

Many SAD symptoms are similar to those of being suicidal. It may be difficult to distinguish suicidal thoughts from SAD so it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional so you can take appropriate steps to help yourself. If you are suffering from SAD, it is important to take the necessary measures to manage and treat it. Not only will this support your overall mental health, but by extension it can help prevent suicidal behavior.

Treatment and Management

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for SAD. Your doctor will work with you to explore the treatment options available that are viable for you. Common SAD treatment options include antidepressants, psychotherapy and light therapy.

Light therapy involves exposing yourself to a special light box that works in a similar way as natural light to stimulate the brain to release serotonin, a chemical that regulates your mood and melatonin, which regulates sleep and mood.

Reduction of natural light in the winter and fall reduces production of these vital chemicals. The reduction can have adverse effects in people with high risk for depression, leading to SAD. While you can find a light box device online, it is paramount to consult with your doctor before purchasing one. You want to be sure that the device you buy is safe and ideal for you.

In addition to medical and professional help, there are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your mood and alleviate SAD symptoms. These include exercising, going outside regularly, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting adequate sleep and engaging in your hobbies. You could also grow plants indoors and paint your walls in mood-boosting colors that liven up your rooms and improve your mood.

Make the most of what natural light you do have available by removing overhanging limbs and trimming back shrubs that may block your windows. Speaking of windows, removing dirt and grime from them will increase the amount of natural light that enters your home; having the windows professionally cleaned may go a long way towards improving your SAD. It’s a big chore, especially if you’re feeling down, so you can always look for residential window washers near you to lend you a hand.

Depression increases the likelihood of one being suicidal. Therefore, if you are suffering from SAD, have it treated early on to prevent it from escalating. Do what you can to improve your surroundings and reduce your depression levels. And don’t be afraid to work with your doctor to identify a treatment method that is effective and most suitable for you!

Janet Myatt is here to help you connect with the deeply wise aspect of yourself that sits outside of these filters. Click here to book an appointment.

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