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What is SAD?

January 28, 2019

What is SAD?

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that recurs with a seasonal pattern. This mood disorder typically appears in the fall when leaves begin to drop and diminishes when spring emerges with renewed energy. The “winter blues” usually start manifesting in young people between 18 to 30 years old.

Statistics say:

  • One in five Americans suffers from SAD. Ten million Americans have been diagnosed with full-blown symptoms while 10 to 20 percent additional people have milder forms of the disorder. Symptoms seem to decrease with age.
  • Symptoms vary from person to person. General symptoms include oversleeping, overeating, depression, lethargy, stomach pain, joint pain, and lowered immunity response. Moods can range from difficulty concentrating to anxiety and irritability, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, and increased sensitivity to rejection.
  • The eyes have it. 70 percent of our sensory receptors are found in the eyes. This makes visual stimulation and exposure to light essential to well-being,
  • Women outnumber men. Eighty percent of people affected by SAD are women.
  • Distance from the Equator increases severity. The incidence rate of severe SAD cases dramatically rises the farther one lives from the Equator.

While the definitive cause of SAD is unknown, scientists believe less sunlight is responsible for disrupting body rhythms, reducing levels of certain brain chemicals, and causing vitamin D deficiencies to fuel this disorder.

  • When the body’s circadian rhythm or biological clock is disrupted, feelings of depression can occur.
  • Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin production. This brain chemical influences mood. When serotonin levels drop, depression can be triggered.
  • Melatonin is a brain chemical that regulates sleep and is prompted by darkness. Dark days of winter can trigger depression, tiredness, and lethargy.
  • With reduced exposure to sunlight, vitamin D deficiency can occur. This lowers serotonin levels and can cause symptoms of depression.

Treatment of SAD depends on the severity of symptoms and may require:

  • Raising serotonin levels naturally. Certain foods like eggs, cheese, pineapple, tofu, salmon, nuts and seeds, and turkey boost serotonin levels. Tryptophan-rich foods help synthesize 5-HTP, a fundamental building block of serotonin.
  • More exposure to natural light. Spending time outdoors during the powerful early morning daylight is encouraged. Let more light indoors and sit nearer natural light during the day.
  • Full spectrum light therapy. Broadband light box therapy is a treatment option that mimics natural daylight. This has proven effective in increasing energy levels and reducing symptoms when used regularly and under a physician’s care.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet. Wholesome foods promote health, ease stress, and reduce cortisol levels in the body. Eliminate alcohol, sweet, and starchy foods.
  • Moderate daily exercise. Exercise has shown to have the same effect on depression as taking antidepressants.
  • More face-to-face social contact. Cognitive behavior therapy can help some people with severe cases of SAD learn to be more comfortable in social situations.
  • Taking supplements. Some people need to intake natural vitamins to help them receive the nutrients to help with their symptoms.

Make self-care a priority.

Monitor mood and energy for changes in disposition. Approach the winter season with a positive attitude. Schedule pleasurable social activities. Consider QOL’s PureBalance™ Serotonin when there is a need to boost mood, energy, and control appetite.* Should SAD symptoms appear or persist, seek help sooner rather than later.



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