Coping with SAD
Tuesday, March 4, 20086 Comments
SAD is a spectrum disorder
The Mood Disorders Society of Canada reports that about 2-4% of the Canadian population suffer from SAD, but many people are affected by the low light and cold temperatures of the winter season.
Why does SAD happen?
The basic theory is that lower light levels present in the winter time lead to lower levels of either serotonin or melatonin, leading to depression. This is probably exacerbated by the fact that many of us spend our daylight hours indoors at school or work; historically, it would have made sense for humans in northern climates to spend their springs, summers, and falls preparing food and firewood for the winter season. These days, we rely a little more on the grocery store, or CSAs – or maybe you do grow, prepare, and can your food. Either way, the glow of our computers does not provide us with the vitamin D we’d get from the sun, and our work schedules don’t generally allow us the flexibility of taking it a little bit easier in the winter.
Like the standard type of depression, SAD occurs on a spectrum. Some people may have less energy and want to sleep more, and they may gain weight. Others, who suffer more severely in the winter time, may experience the mood-related symptoms: loss of interest in their social and school lives, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, irritability, and trouble concentrating on tasks.
So how can people cope with SAD?
Light therapy is probably the most effective treatment of SAD. People coping with SAD purchase a lightbox - costing anywhere from $100 and up - or a dawn simulator. The lightbox can be used at any time during the day, and treatment consists of sitting in front of the box for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The dawn simulator is used daily when waking and falling asleep.
Exercise and fresh air: SAD causes most people to want to hibernate. Often, the first step towards feeling better is to work some fresh air and exercise into your day - this is especially helpful during daylight hours. If you generally take the bus to school or work, it might be a good idea to walk for some of the week instead.
For those who suffer from serious cases, antidepressants may be helpful - or they may not be. There are several types of antidepressants on the market, but SSRIs (Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, and Zoloft, are probably the most common. Antidepressants can have serious side effects like sleeplessness, digestion problems, or tremor. Some side effects dissipate after a few weeks as your body gets used to the drug; others linger.
And, like any mood disorder, it’s important to take your concerns to a trusted health professional – whether that’s a doctor, psychiatrist, or naturopath is your choice.
And just remember, it’s only 14 more days til the Spring Equinox!