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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by Ashley Nagel

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a type of mild to severe depression that occurs around the same time every year, typically in the fall and winter, although rare cases do get S.A.D. during the spring and summer as well.  It’s thought that Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by lack of sun in the fall and winter months.  Lack of sun can lead to disruption to your circadian rhythm (biological clock) and drop in serotonin and melatonin levels which all lead to having feelings of depression.

ong>Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include difficulty concentrating, hopelessness, over sleeping, appetite changes, depression, social withdrawal including not doing things you normally love to do, anxiety, weight gain, thoughts of suicide and an over all loss of energy.  Its normal to experience some of these symptoms during the winter for a day or so because everyone feels down once in a while especially when there’s a great absence of sunlight, but if a person experiences these symptoms for days on end, it would be a good idea to check in with a doctor and get diagnosed and then treated.

Treatment of S.A.D. is pretty basic.  A doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medication such as Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Sarafem, and Effexor.  The downside of medication for treatment is that it normally takes a few weeks for the anti-depressants to fully get into your system.  However if a person has previously been diagnosed with S.A.D, their doctor may recommend starting anti-depressant medication before the persons symptoms even start so they can continue to function normally.

Another treatment of S.A.D. would be light therapy also known as phototherapy. In light therapy, you sit a few feet away from a specialized light therapy box so that you’re exposed to a bright light.  The bright light mimics sunlight and appears to change chemicals in the brain that are related to mood changes.  This treatment only takes 2-4 days to start working, has minimal side effects and is the treatment that most doctors prefer to start off with because it actually helps most people relieve their S.A.D.

Along with light therapy and anti-depressants, a doctor may suggest psychotherapy as a treatment.  Even though its thought that S.A.D. is chemical related, it may be a good idea to speak with a therapist as well.  They could help change how a person acts or feels negatively and also help them to even identify when they’re acting or feeling that way. Bottom line, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very common depression that’s easily treatable, whether its going to a doctor for clinical treatment or just forcing yourself to go outside and take a walk, its treatable.



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