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Don't Be SAD: The Lowdown on Seasonal Affective Disorder

When I moved to Southern California I thought it would be bright and sunny every day, but instead I'm experiencing somthing called June gloom (it often starts in May and goes through July). Who knew it'd get grey and cloudy at the onset of summer! Do you repeatedly find yourself down in the dumps on cloudy or rainy days? Do you dread the winter months? If this sounds familiar - I know how you feel. Like me, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Keep reading for more information on this increasingly common disorder.

Growing up in a state where winter often seems to last ten out of the twelve months of the year, it became a constant struggle for me to stay positive throughout the snowy season. And until just a few years ago, I thought that was normal!

 It turns out, though, I was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short (appropriately named – don’t you think?).

What exactly is SAD, and could you possibly be a victim? What causes it? And are there ways to treat SAD? Well, let’s find out . . .

People who suffer from SAD are more than just that. Common symptoms include feelings of depression, and all the negative feelings that come with it such as hopelessness, wanting to sleep all the time, lethargy, and even suicide. These symptoms usually come on in the fall and leave in the spring, although even a run of rainy days in the middle of summer can cause an onset in some individuals.

While this disorder is not limited to women, they are the ones who are most often affected by it.

What is to blame?
Unlike many other “disorders” It is believed that SAD has a real cause: unstable levels of melatonin and serotonin. This instability seems to be the result of changes in exposure to light and darkness. So how do you get these levels up? Well, prevention is key.

Prevention Tips and Tricks
If you have experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past, you can be prepared for it. In the fall, especially, make these changes in your lifestyle:

  • Practice light therapy, especially during early mornings and evenings with a full-spectrum fluorescent light.
  • Start taking regular doses of St. John’s wort.
  • Work out in bright light at least three times a week.

You can also make simple changes in your diet by reducing simple carbohydrates and increasing complex carbohydrates. Supplementing your diet with vitamins has also been shown to be of help. Some that have been recommended include:

  • L-tryptophan, which helps body manufacture serotonin. Take it in small amounts throughout the day.
  • 5-HTP- also increases serotonin.
  • Vitamin D, which helps keep calcium levels up and works on brain, spinal cord, and tissues that produce hormones.
  • Melatonin has not done well in some of the tests on SAD; however, in the right dosage at the right time, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression.

Some lifestyle changes that have been reported to be helpful include:

  • Exercise – it has often been shown to work better than antidepressants.
  • Adding light during exercise has been shown to increase positive effects.
  • Take a hot shower or bath. The water seems to be therapeutic.
  • Get out and about! Dress up and go out in an outfit that looks good and makes you feel good.
  • Wear perfume that you like. One study has shown that the odor of jasmine improves some people’s depression.
  • Go out for a walk or drive.

There are a number of natural ways you can attack SAD as well. Natural medicines that may help include:

  • Cina (wormseed) 
  • Euphorbia Cyparissias 
  • Gelsemium Sempervirens (Carolina jasmine, yellow, jasmine, false jasmineHura Brasiliensis 
  • Hydrastis Candensis (goldenseal, orange root, yellow puccoon)
  • Imperatoria Ostruthium
  • Kali Carbonicum (potassium carbonate)
  • Lachesis Mutus (bushmaster, surukuku)
  • Morbillinum
  • Nuphar Luteum

Related Conditions
Jet lag and the difficulties shift workers have are related to SAD; however, the causes are different. For example, in the case of jet lag, changes in the sleep-wake cycle disrupt the production of melatonin and can result in the same symptoms as SAD. In the case of a shift worker whose daily schedule goes against his internal time clock, the production of melatonin may be affected and the symptoms associated with SAD may be reported.

There is hope!
If you suffer from SAD, don’t let it take over your life! There are wonderful things that happen in the winter season, and you don’t want to miss out on them due to your mood. With the above information you’ll be able to face SAD head-on and prevent it from negatively affecting you for the many winters ahead of you.

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