Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, Seasonal Affective Disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own — you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Addressing the problem can help you keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms usually build up gradually in the late autumn and winter months:

  • Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more typical of other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of energy and loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Especially if your seasonal depression symptoms are severe, you may need medications, light therapy or other treatments to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, there are some measures you can do on your own that may help, such as:

Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, add skylights and trim tree branches that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help—especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.

Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.

Research alternative medicine. Several herbal remedies and supplements are commonly used to relieve depression symptoms. It’s not clear how effective these treatments are for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but there are several that may help. Keep in mind, alternative treatments alone may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. Some alternative treatments may not be safe if you have other health conditions or take certain medications.

Discover mind-body therapies. Therapies that may help to relieve depression symptoms include:

  – Acupuncture
  – Yoga
  – Meditation
  – Guided imagery
  – Massage therapy

Coping and Support

You can take action to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are tips to help you manage the condition:

Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed and attend therapy appointments as scheduled.

Take care of yourself. Get enough rest. Eat regular, healthy meals. Take time to relax. Don’t turn to alcohol or unprescribed drugs for relief.

Practice stress management. Learn how to manage your stress better. Unmanaged stress can lead to depression, overeating, or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

Socialize. When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to be social. Make an effort to connect with people you enjoy being around. They can offer support, a shoulder to cry on or a joke to give you a little boost.

Take a trip. If possible, take winter vacations in sunny, warm locations if you have winter Seasonal Affective Disorder or to cooler locations if you have summer Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Prevention

There’s no known way to prevent the development of Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if you take steps early on to manage symptoms, you may be able to prevent them from getting worse over time. Some people find it helpful to begin treatment before symptoms would normally start in the fall or winter, and then continue treatment past the time symptoms would normally go away. If you can get control of your symptoms before they get worse, you may be able to head off serious changes in mood, appetite and energy levels.

We Can Help.

Questions about SAD or depression? If you or a family member has health concerns, call VITAL WorkLife anytime, day or night. We can help you evaluate the seriousness of your symptoms and suggest different options of care.

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  • EAP members: call 800.383.1908
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About VITAL WorkLife

VITAL WorkLife, Inc. is a national behavioral health consulting company providing solutions to support all dimensions of an individual’s well being, while assisting organizations with improving employee engagement. Our approach consists of guiding employees, their families and their organizations in building sustainable, healthy behaviors and cultures. With over 35 years of experience, we have expanded beyond traditional employee assistance programs (EAP) and now offer comprehensive and holistic well being solutions including customizable programs, coaching, training, consulting and leadership development. We have deep experience in education, manufacturing and health care, especially assisting physicians and providers in dealing with the unique challenges facing their profession. Visit us at VITALWorkLife.com

 

Source: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mayo Clinic; 2009. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195. Retrieved February 28, 2011.