For 10 million Americans, the winter blues are in full swing. Those who suffer from this yearly experience an unexplainable feeling of dreariness and sadness. Many think it is simply a case of missing summer nights or just a passing mood that matches the dull weather, but it isn't.
There is a medical explanation for those who get extremely sad and unmotivated every time it hits winter o'clock and it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subtype of depression that is triggered by the reduction in daylight hours. Simply put, SAD is depression caused by decreased hours of daylight.
It's a seasonal mood disorder that shows up in places where the daylight hours are shortened. For places where these daylight hours are less in winter, people experience "winter blues."
How Does Light Bring On SAD?
Sunlight plays a big role in maintaining the circadian rhythm. So, when there is a change in daylight hours, it affects the circadian rhythm.
The brain starts producing more of the sleep hormone in response to shorter daylight hours. And SAD is a by-product of this change. As the brain produces more melatonin, it produces less serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel good.
All of this happening at the same time causes what you know to be the winter blues.
How do you know if you or a loved one has Seasonal Affective Disorder? The symptoms are pretty similar to that of depression but they tend to become active between the fall and winter seasons.
If they are showing any of the following symptoms during this time, then it is most likely SAD:
- A general feeling of illness
- Binge eating
- Increased irritability
- Reduces libido
- Sleeping more
- Physical and mental tiredness
- Social withdrawal
Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder is just the first step to improving its symptoms and enjoying this time of year.
The three treatment options for SAD are:
- Talk Therapy
- Light Therapy
In severe cases of SAD where talk therapy and light therapy don't produce the required results on their own, doctors may suggest medication to treat the symptoms of this illness. Antidepressants are typically used to treat SAD. Some of them work to increase dopamine production, while others focus on bringing up serotonin levels.
Talk therapy is an effective treatment for individuals with a mild case of SAD. With motivation from a therapist, people with SAD can change up their lifestyle to increase serotonin levels. Common changes include exercising, eating healthy, and socializing.
Light Therapy (Phototherapy)
Phototherapy is another method of treating SAD. It attacks the root of the problem when it comes to any form of depression – light. Phototherapy uses light to produce white light that tricks the body into producing less melatonin and maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. Phototherapy works because the brain processes bright light and daylight the same way.
What's great about phototherapy is that it is both preventive and corrective. So even people who don't have any symptoms of SAD can prevent it with phototherapy!
You don't also have to go to a doctor for light therapy. You can do it in your own home as long as you have a lamp with balanced lighting. If you are wondering where to get one, we've got you covered!
Dr. Lite has the best lamps for phototherapy. Our balanced lighting is doctor-recommended to improve symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder by blocking out harmful blue light while retaining beneficial blue light!