Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Your Questions Answered
During this time of year, the light is low, the days are short, and the cold weather can keep you indoors for extended periods of time. As a result, you may notice that you feel a little more “down,” don’t have the energy you used to, have put on an excessive amount of weight, or find yourself unable to concentrate. If you begin experiencing recurring symptoms like these during the late fall, and they typically subside by spring, then you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
How Do I Know if I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If you’ve been feeling depressed for several days (or even weeks) on end, just can’t seem to shake it, and continuously experience these symptoms around the same time each year, then it may be time to ask your physician about Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is because SAD should be treated with the same urgency as any other form of depression, since, if left unaddressed, it has the potential to severely impact your life.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Based on our current understanding of the disease, Seasonal Affective Disorder is primarily thought to be related to the amount of sunlight an individual receives (both through direct contact, as well as through visual means; e.g. how high the sun rises above the horizon each day). We know this because it’s fairly rare to diagnose individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder who live within 30 degrees of the equator, where sunlight is relatively constant through the year.
When this seasonal decrease in sunlight occurs, serotonin and melotonin levels within your brain begin to drop, and you may end up feeling sluggish, or have difficulty sleeping. If you’ve been feeling this way, call Advanced Family Medicine for an appointment today.
What Should I Do Prior to My Appointment?
Prior to your appointment with Advanced Family Medicine, be sure to make a list of your depression symptoms, and pay attention to any patterns (e.g. when it starts/ends, what triggers/relieves it, etc.). Also, because it can be easy to forget questions you may have, we would recommend writing them down and bringing them with you to the appointment.
What are Some Common Seasonal Effective Disorder Treatments?
If your Advanced Family Medicine physician diagnoses you with Seasonal Affective Disorder, they may recommend any number of treatments, including:
- Light Therapy – Used in relatively minor cases, this can reduce your SAD symptoms by exposing you to a bulb that mimics outdoor light. This can change the chemicals released in your brain, thereby improving your mood.
- Pharmaceuticals – If light therapy doesn’t work, then your physician may prescribe some form of antidepressant, such as Zoloft or Prozac, which should aid in relief from your SAD symptoms.
- Psychotherapy – While this option can’t help change the chemicals in your brain, it can help change your attitude about your illness.
However, keep in mind that, just like with any other medical treatment, what works for one person may not always work for another. As a result, you may need to go through more than one treatment option (or a combination thereof) before finding the right solution.
Ready to Take Charge of Your Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If so, then call Advanced Family Medicine today at (425) 453-6838, and we’ll help get you on the path to success!