Seasonal Affective Disorder: Fighting Winter Depression
By Kristen M. Leccese and Dr. Millie Lytle, ND
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific form of depression that typically begins in the fall and continues throughout the winter months, causing moodiness, appetite changes, decreased energy levels and more. Symptoms may also hit during the spring and summer, although this is much less common.
It’s hard to feel motivated and upbeat when we’re trudging through the snow and dealing with freezing temperatures, icy streets, and travel issues. Symptoms of winter depression are much more severe for some people, though. So, how do you know if you’re suffering from a normal case of the winter blues or a more severe condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It’s normal to feel that familiar lack of energy when the sky is gray all of the time, but if you’re having trouble getting through the days and completing your everyday tasks, feeling extremely hopeless constantly, or turning to alcohol and drugs for comfort, it’s time to take a closer look. Here are some of the most common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder –
- Depression, anxiety and hopelessness
- Loss of energy
- Fatigue and oversleeping
- Weight gain and appetite changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms and legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in usual activities
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
There’s no known cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but some factors that play a role in this condition are a drop in levels of certain chemicals that occur naturally in the body. Reduced exposure to the sunlight may cause a drop in your serotonin levels, which is your body’s natural “happy” chemical. The drastic change in the seasons may affect the balance of melatonin in your body as well, which regulates sleep patterns and overall mood. In addition, when fall turns to winter your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, is disrupted – this can lead to feelings of overall sadness and depression. There are other common risk factors as well, including family history and the specific weather changes where you live. Females tend to suffer more often from SAD than men, and those who suffer from diagnosed bipolar disorder or clinical depression are at a significantly increased risk for SAD.
Dr. Millie Lytle, ND. Recommenations for SAD
If you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you’re not alone. Here are some great recommendations from Dr. Millie Lytle, ND for dealing with this condition –
Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D3 is the most absorbable. Vitamin D deficiency is not only a leading cause of osteoporosis, but also a cause for depression such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It has been evaluated for its effectiveness to boost mood, especially in the gray and dark winter months. Vitamin D is not available in most foods, and fortified foods contain very low levels. Vitamin D may be especially deficient in overweight and obese individuals, in older individuals, those who live in northern latitudes, as well as in dark-skinned people who require extra time in the sun, but may not get it due to climate, sunscreens or sun avoidance. Infants and toddlers are also at risk. Thankfully, Vitamin D can be restored quickly by sunlight – up to 25,000 International Units (IU) can be generated in 30 minutes in fair skinned people, while it can take up to 2 hours to reach this level for those with darker skin. Studies show after just 6 days of casual summer sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days without any sun.