After a long, fun filled summer and warm weather that continued into fall, daylight savings time has put an abrupt end to both extended evenings and mild temperatures. As we begin to enter winter and the holiday season approaches, many people start to feel unhappy, emotional and lethargic. All of a sudden, we crave large amounts of carbohydrates and warm fires, but instead of looking forward to the joys of the season, a sense of wistful sadness begins to creep into our days. If this happens to you around the same time every year, you may have SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Everyone is susceptible to this disorder. However, it is most common in women. It can develop in anyone who lives in an area of the country where winter days are particularly short or where there are large changes in the amount of daylight during different seasons. SAD usually strikes people between the ages of 15 and 55, and the possibility of getting it is reduced as one ages.
Nobody is quite certain why this phenomenon occurs, but a consensus of expert opinions points to a lack of sunlight, which can dramatically upset the natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Experts believe that this may cause an alteration of serotonin levels in the brain, a chemical which can dramatically cause changes in mood. If you have begun to feel out of sorts, are sleeping more yet still feel drowsy during the day, experience unusual anxiety, crave more carbohydrates, begin to gain weight and begin to lose interest in the things you enjoy, you may have SAD, and be sad, literally.
Some time tested ways to get through SAD include the maintaining of a healthy diet, regular exercise and light therapy. There are two types of light therapy. Bright light treatment is as simple as sitting in front of a light box, readily available at most drug stores, for a minimum of half an hour, preferably in the morning. Dawn simulation, the second form, consists of setting a dim light on a timer to turn on while you sleep, having it get more and more bright over time. This form of light therapy literally simulates a sunrise where none may be visible. When light therapies are used every day until the season changes, the results have been very successful and fast; usually within a week’s time. But make no mistake. SAD is a form of depression. Don’t ignore it’s symptoms.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, a trip to the doctor is definitely in order. Some doctors may prescribe antidepressants which can improve the balance of mood changing brain chemicals. Others may suggest a visit to a psychologist to avoid a full blown depression and help to manage symptoms on a day to day basis. You don’t have to suffer through what should be a season filled with fun, friends and family. There are relatively simple and very effective ways to get the SAD out of your fall and winter.