There are many types of depression and one that turns up every winter is Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression.
The acronym SAD is the perfect description for this disorder, which affects individuals in areas where the length of daylight is diminished during the fall and winter months. As far as how many people suffer from SAD, there are some estimates that place the number as high as 6 percent of the population in these geographic areas.
For those suffering from the disorder, the following symptoms may present themselves.
A feeling of hopelessness
An increase in appetite which is different from other forms of depression where weigh loss is a more common occurrence.
As opposed to other forms of depression where sleep disruption is common, with SAD, there is often increased sleep.
An inability to concentrate and a feeling of less energy.
Decrease of interest in work and other activities.
Unhappiness and irritability
Though there is no specific test for SAD, a doctor will be able to help establish if the problem is indeed caused by the disorder or if there is another underlying problem.
As far as treatment, there has been some movement in the use of medications that are commonly used to treat other forms of depression. These medications are known as second-generation antidepressants. The medications so far studied are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Medications that fall into this category include Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor and Effexor XR (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).
Because these studies are relatively new, there is no definitive word on the effectiveness, but many doctors are trying the medications to help their patients find some relief. This is why as with all types of depression and other illnesses, it is imperative that those suffering from the symptoms seek medical help.
A much longer and proven treatment for SAD is “light therapy”, known as phototherapy. Phototherapy units produce a true “daylight” spectrum of light that helps the brain overcome the loss of natural daylight in the winter months. There is also mounting evidence that phototherapy may help when it comes to other forms of depression, but it is not for everyone.
Oddly there can be dangerous side effects for those suffering from bi-polar disorder or from severe depression. As with any sort of treatment, it is imperative that you get help from a doctor or mental health professional before beginning phototherapy.
Units are available online and in local stores, but only by having the recommendation of a health care professional can the user be sure of purchasing the proper device and of using it for the correct length of time for each exposure.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the normal usage of the light units begins with an exposure of 30 minutes each day as early in the day as possible. This is in an effort to mimic sunrise and to fool the brain into thinking it is not winter.
Other steps that can be taken are:
Maintain healthy sleep habits and get enough sleep
Eat right and healthy
Take any medications as prescribed and learn about any side effects.
If your depression becomes worse, contact your doctor.
Take part in activities that make you happy and include exercise each day.