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Seasonal Affective Disorder: A Primer on SAD Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

David Martin

This is a guest post by Laura Baker.  Find out more here.

Many people live with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), particularly those who live in the northernmost parts of the world. Even if you are a southern-dweller, it is fully possible to experience SAD during the winter or rainy months.

However, some people are unaware that the feelings of depression they experience during certain times of the year may actually be a mental health disorder.  Subsequently, they don’t take steps to manage their symptoms, instead believing that these temporary down times are something everyone experiences.  If you think you may have SAD, here are a few things you should know.

The Symptoms of SAD

The first step in determining whether or not you have Seasonal Affective Disorder is knowing the symptoms. A few of the most common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, self-imposed isolation, and weight gain.

SAD is more commonly found in women than men and is much more common in parts of the world that receive less sunlight. Of course, summer SAD does exist but is less common. Summer symptoms include weight loss, decreased appetite, and insomnia.

How to Diagnose SAD

If you are experiencing depression at any time of the year, you should always speak with a mental health care professional. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore the symptoms of a mental illness and leave the condition untreated.

If your depression symptoms seem to come and go at certain times of the year, be sure to tell your doctor or counselor. From there, your health care professional will be able to work with you to lay out a treatment plan that works best for you.

Treatment for SAD

There are many ways you can manage SAD. As most people suffer from winter SAD (or rainy season SAD), the first course of action should be upping vitamin D levels. Vitamin D supplements are easily found in your average pharmacy section of grocery stores. If your vitamin D levels are particularly low, you may need to go to your doctor for a prescription dosage.

Artificial sunlight can be another good way to increase your vitamin D levels. Simply set the lamp up when you are busy drinking coffee, working at a desk, or some other sedentary activity. The light will allow your body to produce vitamin D naturally.

A few other alternatives for SAD management include meditation, yoga, exercise, avoiding addictive substances, and a change in diet. Exercise is one of the top ways to mitigate the effects of depression, and your diet has a major impact on your mental health. Altering your diet can sometimes be all you need to handle the symptoms. Meditative practices have also been shown effective in managing many forms of mental illness.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a disorder suffered by many throughout the year. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help manage the effects and sometimes eradicate it altogether. Vitamin D supplements and sun lamps are a good place to start while exercising, changing your diet, and meditation can also be excellent supplements.

Any mental health disorder should always be diagnosed by a professional. While there’s no harm in trying a few alternative treatments to attempt to alleviate a mild case of the winter blues, you should always seek the help of a mental health professional if your symptoms persist or are so severe that they interfere with your ability to carry out your daily activities.

Image via Pixabay by jill111