The SAD Story: Symptoms and Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner (March 13, in case you’re curious),  which may offer some relief for those experiencing SAD — also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. But until then, here are some coping strategies to help you overcome symptoms. 

Do the abbreviated days of winter give you the blues?  These feelings may be caused by your hormones.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder giving you the blues? Increased light, exercise and counseling may help.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs when the days are shorter and we have less exposure to outside light, which reduces serotonin levels in our bodies. This feel-good hormone calms and soothes us; when we’re deficient in serotonin, we may feel fatigued, crave carbs and are more prone to gain weight.

Symptoms of SAD

If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of SAD or have been diagnosed, northern Nevada’s winter months can feel excruciating — especially when we have a season full of stormy weather, as we have this year.

So instead of simply relying on the fact that Daylight Savings and spring are just around the corner (meaning days will become longer and weather should be predictably sunnier), here are some coping strategies that can help day to day:

  1. Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it’s cloudy. Daylight even when it’s overcast is still beneficial.
  2. Begin using a light box in the fall, even before you feel the effects of SAD. The light box shines a full-spectrum bright light indirectly into your eyes from about 2 feet away for 10 to 15 minutes per day. You can increase this exposure up to 45 minutes, depending on your response.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet, including sufficient vitamins and minerals as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This will energize you even if your body craves sweets and breads.
  4. Commit to exercising 30 minutes daily, 3 days a week.
  5. Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. Social support is extremely important for those with mood disorders, especially during winter.

How to Treat SAD

SAD is a treatable condition, but experts urge anyone who is experiencing depression to see your medical provider for a thorough assessment. Self-diagnosis of this very real condition is not a healthy option.

Additionally, therapy can help with the treatment for SAD. A therapist can educate you about the condition and offer coping mechanisms and tips to prevent future episodes. To request an appointment or explore therapy offerings, visit Renown Behavioral Health.

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