It is the ‘SAD’ Season

It is the ‘SAD’ Season

by Dr. Trupti Shirole on Nov 10 2022 6:41 PM
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  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that starts in fall and winter and remits in spring and summer
  • Using a bright light device for 30 minutes after waking up can help treat SAD
As daylight hours decreases, people's moods may become depressed. You are not alone, so don’t worry. For people who suffer from the seasonal affective disorder, it is the SAD season. That is what the longer nights and shorter days frequently bring: melancholy, exhaustion, and withdrawal.
“The seasonal mood change can come in different shapes and forms,” said Dr Dorothy Sit, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.


How serious is Seasonal Affective Disorder

“It can be a clinical diagnosis of depression, which we call SAD, but some people experience a milder form,” Sit said. “The clinical diagnosis means it is quite intense; it affects people all day for many weeks and can impact their functioning. In milder cases, people can feel a bit blah but can push through. Still, functioning will feel a bit harder.”


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

In addition to feeling lethargic, people may also feel hungrier, crave carbs, eat more, and put on weight. They could also feel less driven and enjoy activities less.

“This is a form of depression that cycles naturally; it starts every fall and winter and remits every spring and summer,” Sit said in a Northwestern Medicine news release.


Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Starting the day with bright light therapy is a key SAD treatment. Dr Sit advises using a device that emits 10,000 LUX of white light for 30 minutes following awakening.

“The treatment provides an uplift in the mood, improves a person’s functioning and may completely resolve their symptoms,” she noted. “It’s even effective for non-seasonal depression, depression in pregnancy and certain people with bipolar depression.”

Sit emphasized the need of using a bright light as directed by a doctor or healthcare professional. He or she can assist in identifying any side effects or issues that develop, and, if necessary, can offer alternatives.

“Light from the sun (sunlight) is the primary regulator that provides the signal for our bodies’ circadian rhythms,” Sit said. “Not having significant exposure to light can affect that. Bright light therapy is used in a way to amplify our circadian rhythms, which appears to boost our mood. Timing the light so the exposure is first thing in the morning may produce more of an impact to regulate our rhythms. We are still trying to fully understand how this mechanism works.”

Keeping active can help people fight the wintertime blues. This can entail going on treks with the family or discovering the outdoors. It could be going to the gym, picking up a new skill, or going to a museum.

Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake routine is also crucial. Don’t oversleep; naps should only last 20 to 30 minutes, according to Dr Sit.