Monday, December 1, 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Fighting the Winter "Blahs"


            For most (and according to that catchy holiday tune), it's the most wonderful time of year. However, for an estimated 10 million Americans it can feel like quite the opposite this time of year. If you tend to get a bit down in the dumps during the colder months, it may not be just stress over the holidays.
            By now I'm sure many of you have heard of seasonal affective disorder. (Or SAD for short. Appropriate, eh?) For most sufferers in the northern hemisphere it begins in late fall when days are getting "shorter" and there is not as much daylight time and generally lasts until spring or early summer.
            SAD is a subtype of major depression and as such has similar symptoms. People who suffer from it may feel lethargic, don't take enjoyment in things they normally would, withdraw from friends and family, become irritable, have trouble sleeping, experience weight gain, and the list goes on.
            There is no official medical test for determining whether someone has seasonal affective disorder. However, your doctor will ask you plenty of questions (and possibly do tests) to determine whether there may be an underlying medical cause for your depression. He/she will also more than likely ask you if you have experienced your SAD symptoms in past years.
            As with major depression, antidepressant medications and, sometimes, psychotherapy (talk therapy) are two of the main treatments used for seasonal affective disorder. Popular medications used are Wellbutrin and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac. As with most medications nowadays, the side effects of these can be just as bad as the symptoms they are meant to treat! Phototherapy is another treatment option that involves sitting in front of a light box for a specified amount of time each day.
            It wasn't until the past year or two that I realized that I probably have SAD. I have a history of depression as well as family members who do as well. I have gotten the "blahs" around this same time every year since my early 20's. I always just thought it was because I'm not as into Christmas as everyone else around me seems to be, but now it all makes sense! (By the way, women and young adults are drastically more likely to suffer from SAD. Also, not surprisingly, the percentage of SAD sufferers correlates to geographic region: the farther away from the equator you are, the higher the rate of people with seasonal affective disorder.)
            As with most non-life threatening medical conditions, I like to take things into my own hands before I absolutely feel the need to resort to a doctor. Yes, I'm stubborn and yes, I hate taking medication. So, with my recent moodiness onset, I decided to look up natural ways to ease SAD symptoms:
-get outside as much as possible during the day (That's kind of a no-brainer, right?!)
-exercise and eat healthy meals
-open curtains/blinds to let more light in and sit close to windows when possible
-St.John's Wort extract
-essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, and jasmine, as well as citrus ones
-vitamin D3

            Personally, I have already started taking some D3 and have not been nearly as grouchy as I was just a week ago or so. It may be the placebo effect for all I know, but who cares as long as it works, right? I really need to break out the essential oils too. Not like we don't have plenty of those laying around!
            What would you try or have you tried if you have seasonal effective disorder?

Disclaimer time!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, nor should my opinions or suggestions above be taken as medical advice. I am not responsible for any harm that may come from the opinions and information in this article. Do not substitute the above information for advice from a licensed medical practitioner. I would also like to note that my symptoms are not severe, comparatively. If I were having suicidal thoughts, causing bodily harm to myself, etc. I would definitely make a doctor visit as you should as well as soon as possible if you are experiencing similar symptoms. 

Sources:
Herbal Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder 
Alternative Mental Health
7 Tips & Home Remedies for Coping with SAD - HealthCommunities.com
Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -- Diagnosis and Treatment
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) Treatments and drugs - Diseases and Conditions - Mayo Clinic
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Mental Health America
Seasonal Affective Disorder | Psychology Today
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Learn Symptoms and Treatment
Seasonal Affective Disorder

9 comments:

  1. I totally have this problem, too, and didn't realize it until a couple years ago either. Sometimes I think I might just be a tropical girl at heart! LOL

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  2. D3 - i also found that limiting dairy for me helps :D

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  3. Great tips! I think the vitamin D one is really important. We get so little from the sun in the winter where I live and I think it has a huge effect in many areas of our health.

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  4. I definitely get this too because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the cold/rain/overcast days definitely makes my joints hurt worse. Stopping by from the Pintastic Party!

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  5. I've experienced this in the past and D3 was a lifesaver for me. I felt lighter and noticed results within just a few days. Another biggie for me is getting outside. Even if it's just a walk around my urban block here in Bronx, NY, it still puts me back in touch with nature and I return home quite refreshed and optimistic. Winter make that a challenge but not impossible.

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    1. I love being outdoors, but I'm finding it hard to get myself to do so since moving back to Indiana from Arkansas where the winters were MUCH more mild! lol Being outdoors always makes me feel better too. :)

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  6. While I do not suffer from SAD my daughter suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. This led me to do some research which became informative, yet extensive. I am not just a blogger, but also a freelance writer. I just wrote an article for a client on the topic of mental health disorders. You might want to take a look and also make sure you have plenty of B vitamins.

    Followed you here from the Pintastic Pinteresting party.

    http://ifreepress.com/health/dealing-mental-health-disorders-naturally

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    1. Thanks! I will definitely go check that out!

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  7. I have SAD. I find Vitamin D3 definitely helps as well as getting out in the sun as much as I can. I also use the "Beauty Booth" at our gym, which is infrared light therapy. It's supposed to help your skin, but it helps my moods as well.

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