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Seasonal affective disorder

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an affective or mood disorder popularly referred to as winter depression. People who suffer from SAD typically experience normal mental health all throughout the year. They only experience depressive symptoms during winter or summer season. Individuals who experience depressive symptoms during summer are said to have reverse seasonal affective disorders. Seasonal mood variations brought about by seasonal affective disorders are believed to be greatly related to light.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

SAD can become a serious psychological disorder and may even require hospitalization. Patients suffering from SAD tend to be suicidal. This disorder is similar in effect to clinical depression. A possible but disputed cause of this condition is the lack of serotonin in the body. Melatonin, a chemical released in the pineal gland, is also thought to be a cause of SAD, because melatonin is produced in dim light and/or darkness, and regulates the person’s day cycle. During winter when there is less light than normal, melatonin is still produced even during daytime, which affects the body by initiating drowsiness. To counter this, bright light treatment is recommended for patients, as is explained in the later part of this text.

The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of clinical depression or dysthymia. Loss of appetite, increased feeling of loneliness, melancholy and loss of interest in social interactions are just few of the depressive symptoms brought about by SAD.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER DIAGNOSIS

However, there are instances when patients suffering from SAD don’t feel depressed. They may just feel a lack of energy and interest in performing their daily tasks and activities. Drowsiness is also common in this situation, because the lack of energy signals the brain that the body is in need of sleep. This would explain why some feel a need to go back or to just stay in bed all day during winter.

There is also a milder form of seasonal affective disorder known as subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder. The blue and melancholic feeling experienced by SAD and SSAD sufferers can usually be alleviated by physical activities and increased outdoor activities specifically on bright, sunny days. Studies have shown that SAD and SSAD sufferers tend to exhibit less signs of depression whenever they are exposed to increased solar exposure. The connection between the moods of human beings, their energy levels and the seasons are well-documented.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER TREATMENT

There are numerous ways to treat seasonal affective disorder including medication, ionized-air reception and light therapies. Among the three treatments mentioned, bright light therapy is the treatment that is the most common. However, there are patients who discontinue the treatment because of the inconvenience that it brings. Bright light treatments are carried out through the use of a specially designed lamp that is way brighter than common indoor lighting. Most bright light treatments last for about 30-60 minutes, depending on the situation and the intensity of the patient’s mood. Many patients prefer to undergo bright light treatments in the morning although the effectiveness of this treatment has not been proven to be better or worse during certain times of the day. However, determining the best treatment schedule is highly important so that patients can feel comfortable and will not be faced with any inconveniences which could hinder the potential successful effects of the treatment. Any negative perceptions regarding the treatment can easily counter the positive effects of this treatment, and will render it ineffective.

SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and anti-depressants (sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine) are also known for effectively treating SAD. Mood stabilizers serve the same purpose, to lessen the effect of depression during these seasons. Other unorthodox treatments are also being devised to combat SAD. Seasonal depression is linked with higher than normal body temperatures, so in order to lower body temperatures, patients undergo various activities that will expose them to colder temps than what is currently the outside temperature. Be it a cold shower, or an ocean swim, or airconditioning, the effects of temperature regulation is regarded as effective. Ionization of the air in the person’s room is also a possible treatment, but is less common than the aforementioned bright-light treatment and is disputed as to its positive effects.

Most people suffering from seasonal affective disorder are said to develop a bipolar or manic-depressive disorder. In these cases, SAD sufferers may experience depressive symptoms during winter season and hypomania during the summer season. Bipolar disorders may have both manic and depressive conditions present at the same time, which can cause severe anxiety, confusion, and other similar effects. Suicidal thoughts are a dangerously common possibility during this time, as is substance or drug abuse, and self-mutilation desires. During the summer, the hypomanic episode will affect the body to an extent that the sleep pattern of the person is altered, and will cause reduced sleep time.


The mood of the person will also be overelevated, he or she will talk rapidly, and find his or her mind racing with ideas that they cannot stop flowing out. But, unlike the onset of a real mania, the person will be coherent during this time, which doesn’t lead to reduced capability in everyday activities. On the other hand however, a blunted effect is also possible in that the person affected will seem withdrawn to his or her self, and will show little emotion to others. Either of these conditions can cause anxiety on their own as well because the person will not understand how or why these feelings or conditions are happening.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER PREVENTION

Seasonal affective disorders are greatly related to the psychological make-up of an individual. If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, its best that you immediately go to your doctor or to a psychologist so as to treat your current condition at hand. Treatment of this will also prevent compounding of the disorder as well and stop it from leading to other conditions that might add up to a very dangerous situation for the person affected.
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