Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a variant of major depressive disorder (MDD) and includes the same symptoms including loss of interest or pleasure, weight loss/gain, insomnia/hypersomnia, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, etc. It is characterized by the seasonal pattern and typically occurs in the winter months due to the shorter days and reduced exposure to sunlight, which can lower the body's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is implicated in mood regulation.


Ways of Managing SAD

1. One of the best ways to manage SAD is to try and get as much natural light as possible; for example, try going for a midday walk. If it is not possible to get natural light, and even if it is, you might consider using a lightbox, or phototherapy, for SAD. General recommendations include getting a 10,000-lux lightbox and sitting in front of it for 15-30 minutes daily.


2. Exercise, which can boost serotonin, can do wonders in terms of mood issues including SAD. Consider it a bonus if you can exercise outdoors or while getting some exposure to natural light.


3. Reach out to family and friends. Resist the urge to isolate or withdraw, which only worsens depression.


4. Oftentimes, SAD increases craving for sugary foods and simple carbohydrates such as white pasta. Try eating complex carbohydrates instead such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, etc, which can help boost serotonin, as well as foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseed.


5. Try to do something you enjoy every day. While it may not feel quite the same, it might make you feel at least somewhat better.


6. Therapy, typically cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people challenge negative thought patterns that are associated with depression, can help with SAD.


7. Medication, typically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI; Citalopram /Celexa, Escitalopram/Lexapro, Fluoxetine/Prozac, Paroxetine/Paxil, Sertraline/Zoloft)) or Bupropion/Wellbutrin, can also help address SAD.


Resources

Learn more about SAD here.


If you are interested in learning more or in working with me please go to my homepage to contact me or schedule your free 15-minute phone call.


Please note that the information in this blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are looking for professional help, visit my resources page for guidance on how to find a therapist. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

Dr. Carissa Gustafson, Clinical Psychologist Los Angeles
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