Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happiness Can Fall With the Seasons

When you're feeling blue, did you ever think it could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? This is a type of depression that is tied to seasons of the year.

Most people with SAD are depressed only during the late fall and winter. There have also been a few cases of people depressed only during the late spring and summer.

The exact causes of SAD are unknown. No laboratory tests are available to detect seasonal affective disorder. Your health care provider will make the diagnosis from your symptoms, medical interview, and examination. Sometimes physical problems can cause depression. But other times, symptoms of SAD are part of a more complex psychiatric problem. Experts think that two specific chemicals in the brain, melatonin and serotonin may be involved in SAD ( People who live in geographical locations that are dark or cloudy during the winter are most likely to have SAD.

People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression: sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in their usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, and inability to concentrate. They often have symptoms such as extreme fatigue and lack of energy, increased need for sleep, craving for carbohydrates, and increased appetite and weight gain.

The Cleveland Clinic Department of Patient Education and Health Center says between 4 and 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from SAD, while 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues. They also say three-quarters of the sufferers are women, most of whom are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. SAD is most common during these ages, but it can also occur in children and adolescents. Older adults are less likely to experience SAD.

How can you treat this disorder? The treatments available are antidepressant medication, psychological therapy, and light therapy.

Bupropion also known as Wellbutrin XL was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent seasonal affective disorder. But this medication is not very popular. According to MedlinePlus, you may become suicidal towards the beginning of treatment. And you can run into these side effects: drowsiness, excitement, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and uncontrollable shaking of a body part, weight loss, constipation, and excessive sweating.

Dr. Peter Vanable, Professor at Syracuse University in the Psychology Department says that he feels this disorder is not just in Syracuse its everywhere. He feels that psychological therapy and light therapy are the best forms of treatment. For light therapy you use white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The intensity of light emitted should be at least 10,000 lux (as compared to a normal light fixture that emits 250 to 500 lux). The patient does not need to look directly into the light, but should do most of their activities while sitting in front of the device but keeping a distance of 2 to 3 feet. Light therapy is safe and generally well tolerated. But with any treatment there can be minor side effects like: eye strain, headache, irritability, fatigue, and insomnia. But if you feel light therapy is too intense maybe you want to look into the litebook.

The Cleveland Clinic Department of Patient Education and Health Center gives some tips on how to prevent it from coming back if you have been previously diagnosed with the disorder:

*Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it's very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial.
*Begin using a light box upon the onset of low sunlight (fall season), even before you feel the onset of winter SAD.
*Eat a well-balanced diet and include sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the FDA. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy and sweet foods.
*Try exercising for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
*Seek professional counseling, if needed, during the winter months.
*Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support during winter months.

But if you're just feeling a little down during the winter season, Associated Content gives a couple of tips:

*Get plenty of light since the build up of melatonin is the chemical that makes you sleepy. And too much of this chemical can contribute to depression.
*Exercise will fight melatonin.
*Eat right by consuming 200-300 calorie meals throughout the day approximately three hours apart.

Stay active through the upcoming months!


Alex Reed said...

Very informative. I actually learned something new. I think I heard people say before that weather affects people's moods but I never knew it could be this serious. I think people who have SAD and read this may consider going to the doctor to get checked out.

Matt Schultz said...

Very nice job. I love how down to earth your writing is. Everyone can understand the article, and it may even help some people to realize that they have this problem.