Mental Health Care and Seasonal Affective Disorder0 comments
Mental Health Care and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Do you find yourself becoming tired, or irritable during the winter months? Are you sleeping or eating more often? Do you feel your mental health has been negatively impacted? Do you wonder why you are wanting to stay inside more, or have less energy to focus on a task? If you identify with most of these symptoms, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mental health problem, and is similar to depression. The difference between these two mental health problems, is the symptoms of SAD typically begin at the end of fall and continue throughout the winter. As the amount of daylight decreases, along with the decreasing temperatures, changes in blood levels of the light sensitive hormone melatonin can occur, along with body temperature, and sleep patterns. These changes can significantly negatively impact one's mental health and well-being, causing someone who typically does not experience depression to feel depressed during this time of year. Those living in places with long winter nights or at a higher altitude are at a greater risk for SAD, especially young women.
Common Symptoms Include:
-Loss of interest in work or activities -Withdrawal from social activities -Change in appetite, typically an increase for foods in high carbohydrates -Oversleeping -Anxiety -Loss of energy -Irritability -Difficulty concentrating
SAD, unlike depression is seasonal and tends to emerge as nights grown longer and they daylight is shorter. For some people struggling with SAD, they become more aware of their symptoms and issues once the holidays have ended. Holidays can stir up a lot of emotions for a person; from the build-up and anticipation of all the excitement and planning, to possible disappointment or feeling let down if things did not go as expected. People recognize their symptoms at various times. Regardless of when the identification happened, you are not aware, and now you need to address it.
Treatment While seasonal affective disorder typically occurs every fall or winter, depending upon where you live, for individuals struggling with SAD, there are areas in which sunlight is lacking even during the day for long periods of time. If you suffer from SAD and you live in parts of Oregon,Washington, London, Germany, or Alaska where there's long, dark days with dreary weather more often than not, your treatment may be to move! If you have SAD you may need to be in a different area where the sun comes out at least a few hours a day, or a few times a week. If you're living in one of these dark places with little sunlight, you need to ask yourself is this the place to be? We all have to make certain decisions and considerations around our health and needs, for you, this may be one of those times. In addition to all of the standard treatments for people struggling with depression Relieving Depression Depression vs Feeling DownAll or Nothing Thinking Positive Affirmationsas well as moving to a sunny climate, there are some specific treatments that have been developed to increase the amount of light exposure that a person has on a daily basis.
Light therapy is a treatment approach for SAD that involves exposure to sunlight, by producing artificial light using light-emitting diodes (LED), fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps, or full-spectrum lighting. The amount of artificial light is applied for a specific amount of time, as prescribed (and in some cases) at a specific time of day. This is done with the intention to mimic daylight in order to cause a chemical change your brain that will lift your mood and decrease other symptoms. Light therapy is also used to help with sleep cycles, which also may impact your mood. Fluorescent lamps and dichroic lamps are lamps that produce very bright light light in varying intensities and wavelengths. There is the least amount of research and information on the use of fluorescent and dichroic lamps to treat SAD. The most common treatment, as reported to be the most effective is the use of full-spectrum lighting. Also known as phototherapy, full-spectrum lighting produces artificial sunlight through the use of a light box. Light Box therapy is the primary treatment for individuals with circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Light boxes can be bought over the counter at a drugstore or hardware store without a prescription. It is recommended you consult with your doctor first, he/she may recommend a specific light box, as well as for any of these options. Light boxes come in all shapes and sizes, producing different types of light. There are three different approaches to light, and varies person to person. Light therapy, for those committed to living in a dark climate, is now considered the first line of treatment, and if practiced properly can show results within days. Antidepressants can be used with light therapy. Side effects of light therapy are said to be uncommon, but there have been reports of headaches, irritability, eyestrain, and nausea. Other treatments that are typically used in conjunction light therapy include melatonin, and negative air ionization. Negative air ionization releases charged particles into the sleep environment. Taking melatonin prior to bedtime helps induce sleep, and can be effective in developing a routine for someone struggling with sleep, or someone who is currently seeking light therapy treatment.
Monitoring your moods and energy levels as you enter fall and winter will increase your awareness of how you are feeling, and what precautions you may need to take depending on your moods in order to plan ahead and prepare. Making plans in advance not only gives you something to look forward to, but also holds you accountable in following through on social events planned with friends and family. If possible, planning a warm/sunny vacation to go on during the cold winter will give you something to look forward to, and will help your exposure to sunlight. Regular physical activity (yoga, walking, running, etc.) will help regulate your moods, reduce your stress level, and will effectively address any overeating that may be taking place due to your SAD symptoms. Paying attention to and identifying the benefits of the winter months will help you stay more positive. Most importantly, you want to maximize the outside hours you do have. It's essential to make you mental health and physical health your top priority, which means when there is daylight, you need to take advantage of it while it's there. Push yourself to enjoy the limited daylight there is, while it's there. Going for a hike, reading outside, walking, any activity that will get you moving and exposed to daylight is needed. Research has identified just 30 minutes under artificial light can significantly improve one's SAD.
We strongly encourage the combination of light therapy as well as traditional strategies of managing depression. The treatment strategies for managing depression are well established and are effective. Consult with a mental health professional to find the best treatment option for you. SAD will not just go away on it's own, you need to take action and find ways to be near light, whether it's taking advantage of the limited natural daylight wherever you are, improving your sleep schedule through use of melatonin, or using light therapy. Talking with friends and loved ones or a therapist will help address your change in mood and will even help you explore the options right for you. Regardless of what you decide, the issue of daylight exposure will be the most important element of your treatment and progress.