Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care

Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care
Next Health Staff
March 11, 2024

How to Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a type of mood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of depression that occur at specific times of the year, typically during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter.

SAD is believed to be related to changes in light exposure, which can disrupt the body's internal clock and lead to symptoms such as low energy, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or weight, and oversleeping.

Below, we delve into methods for diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and discuss effective treatments to alleviate its symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Tests

Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically involves a combination of a physical examination, psychological evaluation, and a review of symptoms and medical history. Here's how doctors typically test for SAD:

  1. Clinical Assessment: Healthcare professionals will conduct a thorough clinical interview to assess the patient's symptoms, including their duration, severity, and seasonal patterns. They may ask questions about changes in mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, appetite, and social functioning.
  2. Diagnostic Criteria: Doctors will refer to established diagnostic criteria, such as those outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to determine if the patient's symptoms meet the criteria for SAD.
  3. Seasonal Pattern Assessment: Healthcare providers may use tools like the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ) to assess seasonal patterns in mood and behavior over the course of a year. This questionnaire helps identify whether symptoms worsen during specific seasons, such as fall and winter.
  4. Physical Examination: A physical examination may be conducted to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to the symptoms. This may include tests to check for thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, or other health issues.
  5. Laboratory Tests: In some cases, doctors may order blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as thyroid dysfunction or vitamin deficiencies.
  6. Psychological Evaluation: A psychological evaluation may be conducted to assess the patient's mental health and to rule out other mood disorders or psychological conditions that may mimic SAD.

It's important for individuals who suspect they may have SAD to seek evaluation and diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional. Effective treatment options, including light therapy, psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, are available for managing SAD symptoms and improving quality of life.

How to Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder Natural Treatments

Light Therapy for SAD

Infrared Light Therapy can positively impact mood by modulating neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and dopamine, enhancing brain circulation and oxygenation, optimizing mitochondrial function, reducing inflammation, and regulating circadian rhythms. By stimulating these physiological mechanisms, infrared light therapy may help alleviate symptoms of depression, including those associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), offering a non-invasive and potentially effective approach to improving mood and emotional well-being.

Book your Infrared LED session here

Seasonal Affective Disorder & Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in mood regulation by modulating neurotransmitter activity, particularly serotonin, which is associated with feelings of well-being. Additionally, vitamin D receptors are present in brain areas involved in mood regulation, suggesting a direct influence on mood pathways. Adequate vitamin D levels have been linked to a reduced risk of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

To test if your vitamin D levels, book our Baseline Test that analyzes over 50 biomarkers.

To increase your vitamin D levels, book a Vitamin D Shot.

Seasonal Affective Disorder & Physical Exercise

Exercise positively influences mood through various mechanisms, including the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that promote feelings of happiness and euphoria. Additionally, regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, improving oxygen and nutrient delivery and enhancing neural function. Exercise also reduces levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, while increasing the production of mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Moreover, engaging in exercise can provide a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, further boosting mood. Consistent exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), making it an essential component of a comprehensive approach to improving mood and emotional well-being.

Spend Time Outdoors for SAD

On average, we spend 90% our time in doors. Spending time outdoors can have a significant positive impact on mood. Exposure to natural sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin, which is essential for mood regulation. Sunlight exposure also helps regulate the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep patterns and overall well-being. Additionally, being in nature has been linked to reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, with studies suggesting that spending time in green spaces can improve mood and cognitive function. Furthermore, outdoor activities often involve physical movement, which releases endorphins and boosts mood. Incorporating regular outdoor time into daily routines can therefore be a valuable strategy for improving mood and emotional health, particularly for individuals experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or other mood-related challenges.

Low Thyroid & SAD

Low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, has been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to its influence on mood-regulating neurotransmitters and the body's internal clock. Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating metabolism, energy levels, and mood. When thyroid function is compromised, individuals may experience symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and lethargy—common features of SAD.

Moreover, thyroid hormone levels can fluctuate in response to changes in daylight exposure, with many hypothyroid patients requiring increased medication dosages during the winter months to maintain optimal thyroid function and alleviate SAD symptoms.

Test your thyroid function here

Wellbutrin for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Wellbutrin, also known by its generic name bupropion, is a medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Unlike some other antidepressants, Wellbutrin works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve mood. Its effectiveness in treating SAD lies in its ability to regulate neurotransmitter levels, particularly during the darker months when sunlight exposure is limited. Wellbutrin is often favored for SAD treatment due to its lower risk of causing weight gain or sexual side effects compared to other antidepressants. However, as with any medication, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if Wellbutrin is the right choice for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder and to discuss potential side effects and dosage adjustments.

What is the Preferred Method to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The preferred method to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often involves a collective approach that combines various treatments to address both the biological and psychological aspects of the condition. Light therapy, which involves exposure to bright artificial light, is a cornerstone of SAD treatment, helping to regulate circadian rhythms and improve mood. Additionally, ensuring adequate vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure, dietary sources, or supplements can support mood stability. Spending time outdoors, particularly in natural environments, offers further benefits by enhancing vitamin D production, reducing stress, and promoting overall well-being. Moreover, engaging in self-care activities that bring joy and fulfillment, such as socializing with friends, exercising, or practicing mindfulness, can complement medical interventions by fostering a sense of connection and resilience. By taking a holistic approach that integrates various treatments and self-care practices, individuals with SAD can effectively manage symptoms and improve their quality of life during the darker months.

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