As the leaves begin to change and the days start to get shorter, we at Sigmund Software want to turn our attention to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression that impacts millions of people and is brought on by the changing seasons, specifically from Fall to Winter. Although SAD is generally seen as a milder condition when compared to chronic depression, the impacts that SAD can have on individuals can be extremely disruptive. While there is much still to be understood about SAD, there are several lifestyle and home remedies that can help people make significant progress while experiencing this affliction.
Although there is no specific cause know for SAD, factors that can have an influence include reduced levels of sunlight, a drop in serotonin levels or a drop in melatonin levels. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the reduced number of sunlight hours appears to be an important pre-condition that causes people to experience SAD.
Typical symptoms develop in the fall or winter seasons and often include:
- Sadness, feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
- Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling irritated or agitated
- Limbs (arms and legs) that feel heavy
- Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, including withdrawing from social activities
- Sleeping problems (usually oversleeping)[i]
A Proactive Approach to Treatment
The Mayo Clinic recommends that that those who are experiencing symptoms of SAD seek out a treatment plan from a professional therapist. In addition to a treatment plan, there are also some easy and accessible remedies that can be done independently.
Some of these activities include:
- Making your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
- Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
- Normalize sleep patterns. Schedule reliable times to wake up and go to bed each day. Especially for fall-winter-onset SAD, reduce or eliminate napping and oversleeping.[ii]
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that you and your healthcare provider can work together to help treat SAD. If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, or any other mood disorder, be sure to contact your healthcare provider to establish a path forward.
Questions for Your Healthcare Provider
If you think you have SAD, some questions you could ask your healthcare provider are:
- What treatment is best for me?
- How can I prevent depressive episodes?
- Will light therapy work?
- Should I take an antidepressant?
- When should I start treatment?
- How long should my treatment continue?
- What can I eat (or should avoid eating) to improve my symptoms?
- What else can I do to feel better?[iii]
Help is often closer than you think. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you feel that you are experiencing the symptoms of SAD. There is no known method to prevent SAD, however recognizing symptoms early on and receiving treatment quickly may help people avoid more serious symptoms over time.
The team at Sigmund Software is dedicated to providing world-class software solutions to the behavioural and mental healthcare industry. We hope to empower healthcare providers and provide them with the tools needed to ensure patients receive the best possible care and that outcomes continually improve.
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