Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Symptoms

  APA FAM MAY NIH WMD
Depression   
Anxiety    
Change in appetite 
Craving foods high in carbohydrates (sweet or starchy foods)
Weight gain 
Lack of energy  
Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration    
Fatigue 
Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement    
Increased need for sleep  
Tendency to oversleep    
Difficulty concentrating  
A heavy feeling in arms or legs   
Social withdrawal 
Irritability   
Lack of interest in normal activities   
Problems with relationships (being sensitivity to rejection)   
The times you have been depressed during the fall/winter season outnumber the times you have been depressed at other times over your lifetime    

Summarized from:   American Psychiatric Association (APA),   FamilyDoctor.org (FAM),  
Mayo Clinic (MAY),   U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH),   and WebMD.com® (WMD)

The Mayo Clinic lists separate symptoms for SAD in summer: "anxiety, insomnia, irritability, weight loss, decreased appetite, and increased libido."

"Those with SAD may not experience every symptom. For example, energy level may be normal while carbohydrate craving may be extreme. Sometimes a symptom is opposite the norm, such as weight loss as opposed to weight gain." (American Psychiatric Association)

Treatments

"Many doctors recommend that patients with SAD try to get outside early in the morning to increase their exposure to natural light. " (WebMD.com®)

"Light therapy. This is the main treatment for many people with winter depression." (Mayor Clinic)

"As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective." (U.S. National Institutes of Health)

"Your doctor may also want you to try a medicine or behavior therapy to treat your SAD. If light therapy or medicine alone doesn't work, your doctor may want you to use them together." (FamilyDoctor.org)

Light Therapy?

"You sit a few feet from a special lamp that's 10 to 20 times brighter than are ordinary indoor lights for 30 or more minutes each day, usually in the morning. You can do other activities, such as reading or eating breakfast, while sitting in front of the light." (Mayo Clinic)

"Research now shows that light therapy, or exposure to light, is an effective treatment for winter depression. Light therapy is administered by a 10,000-lux light box, which contains white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen that blocks ultraviolet rays. Full-spectrum light is not necessary." (Cleveland Clinic, includes a list of manufacturers.)

"You shouldn't stare at the light, but you want the light to enter your eyes." (Mayo Clinic, includes photo of a small light box)

Duration

"30 minutes." (U.S. National Institutes of Health)   "30 minutes each day throughout the fall and winter." (FamilyDoctor.org)   "45 minutes a day or so, usually in the morning." (FamilyDoctor.org, kids section)

Not Tanning Beds

"Tanning beds shouldn't be used to treat SAD. The light sources in tanning beds are high in ultraviolet (UV) rays, which harm both your eyes and your skin." (FamilyDoctor.org)

Melatonin to the Rescue

"The researchers propose that most patients will respond best to a low dose of the light-sensitive hormone melatonin in the afternoon in addition to bright light in the morning."

Reseachers "pinpointed how rhythms go astray in SAD and how they can be re-set by taking melatonin supplements at the right time of day. The findings strengthen the case for daily rhythm mismatches as the cause of SAD."

"... Taking melatonin at the correct time of day afternoon for patients with short intervals and morning for the 29 percent of patients with long intervals more than doubled their improvement in depression scores, compared to taking a placebo or the hormone at the incorrect time." (U.S. National Institutes of Health, "Properly Timed Light, Melatonin Lift Winter Depression by Syncing Rhythms")


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