Coping With Seasonal Affective Disorder

seasonal affective disorder

Its primary symptoms are feelings of depression and sadness in the winter months, perpetuated by the lack of light. This depression is compounded by a number of factors, including the changing of the clocks, reduced daylight, and the emotional instability which is created by waking to darkness, and returning home to darkness.

Circadian rhythms in mammals are inhibited or disrupted by enforced darkness. The human body, like any organism, relies upon a healthy level of light to maintain the balance of chemicals such as serotonin. Without this, sleep patterns and appetite are disturbed, and ultimately animals begin to feel disorientated and unable to cope with everyday tasks and events.

The Origins of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Two hundred years ago, 75% of the population worked outdoors. Nowadays, less than 10% of the population works in natural outdoor light. Whilst this is fine in the Summer months when there are longer daylight hours, in Winter, people tend to go to work and return in the dark, and don't get enough natural daylight.
These factors have diminished the body’s natural ability to regulate the body clock and this work/life change has resulted in a dramatic increase in light deficiency symptoms.

A combination of a change in seasonal light, modern hectic lifestyles and the periods of darker days and poorer weather, can result in dramatic effects on circadian rhythms. As a direct consequence of these environmental and lifestyle factors, more people than ever before are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When the human body clock doesn’t get the right light signals, it results in tiredness, moodiness and sluggish feelings. Given the right type of light, the body produces active, energetic hormones and suppresses the negative, withdrawal ones.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are a diverse range of symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder; many are associated with a feeling of general depression:
  • Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
  • Sleep problems, finding it hard to stay awake during the day, but having disturbed nights
  • Anxiety, inability to cope
  • Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people
  • Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason
  • Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain.

It is always important to consult a medical professional if symptoms of SAD are present.

Remedies to Ease the Symptoms of SAD

Previous treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder involved the use of prescribed medication. However, does not recommend drugs for the treatment of SAD as these are not as effective as Light Therapy.

Lack of light causes an increase in the production of Melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night), and a reduction of Serotonin, the lack of which causes depression. The exposure to bright light therapy reverses the process, with the additional benefit of being drug free.

By providing summertime levels of light during the winter, it is possible to successfully alleviate the symptoms of SAD with the result that former sufferers can lead a normal, happier life and beat the Winter Blues. In fact almost everyone can benefit from increased energy levels when using a lightbox.
Starting light therapy treatment is as easy as flicking a switch. People should start to feel a benefit within 7-10 days of using a light box.

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