Winter Blues ... Cabin Fever ... Winter Doldrums ... Holiday Depression
DescriptionSeasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression (some consider it a subcategory of major depression) characterized by a pattern of onset and remission linked to the change of seasons. The most common pattern is that of winter depression in which onset occurs in the fall and remits in the spring. However, some individuals experience onset of symptoms in the spring.
- Low energy
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Sleeping more than usual
- Loss of Productivity
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates and sugar
- Mood Swings
CauseThere is still a great deal of research that needs to be done in this area. However, the bulk of literature on this topic agrees that there is a distinct link to day light. The symptoms of SAD increase as the days shorten and the number of hours of daylight decrease. The neurotransmitter, Serotonin, has been implicated in that light passing through the eyes stimulates the release of Serotonin. Low levels of Serotonin are often found in those with depressive symptoms. An increase in levels of Melatonin may also contribute or cause this disorder. In converse to Serotonin, light suppresses Melatonin release. Melatonin is a hormone believed to help regulate body temperature and sleep cycles. Elevated levels, therefore, may cause the symptoms associated with this disorder.
TreatmentThe first-line of treatment for SAD is light therapy or phototherapy. Light therapy involves exposure to bright light one or two times a day for sessions ranging from 10 - 45 minutes. Many people have remission of symptoms within as little as a week. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed in conjunction with or in place of light therapy. Exercise is also encouraged along with limiting carbohydrates, sugar and caffeine.