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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Updated on March 12, 2011

During the winter months, a lot of people experience symptoms of sadness, boredom, depression, exhaustion and even burn out. These symptoms could be due to seasonal affective disorder. A lot of people don't even notice the symptoms because they come on gradually.  These gloomy days can be shifted with the right attitude. However, with seasonal affective disorder it will take a lot of effort on that person’s part to overcome the gloomy moods. So, the biggest challenge for someone suffering from seasonal affective disorder is to change their perception. Some of the ways this can be done are very simple. One way, for example, is to simply turn on the lights. Around the same time every day, like 4pm or 5pm, turn on all the lights in the house This creates a cheerful glow in the house. Many studies have been done that prove that light can improve mood. Most people see improvement within their first week of treatment. There is also something called a light box you could use for 30 minutes each day that has been proven to reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. These boxes are often referred to as SAD lamps. However, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $50 to $150 for one light box.

In the early 1980s, a doctor named Norman E. Rosenthal found that he had been suffering from winter time depression for years. Rosenthal theorized that reduced daylight hours of winter time months were the cause. As a result, Rosenthal came up with the idea of light therapy to treat symptoms of depression that occurred in winter months. Something else that works is to increase your exposure to the sunlight. It’s always best to talk to a doctor before getting any therapy or treatment, but light therapy has been proven to help reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder and prevent the need for prescription antidepressants in many people.

Tests can determine if you actually have seasonal affective disorder.  Seasonal affective disorder is a lot more than just cabin fever brought on by being cooped up in cooler temperatures. In addition, people with seasonal affective disorder seldom experience symptoms of depression during other months of the year. A lot of people that suffer from depression could in fact have a number of other disorders, since the symptoms often overlap other types of conditions. For this reason, it is best to seek help with diagnosis from a medical professional. Other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include fatigue, change in moods, lack of enjoyment, change in sleep patterns, change in appetite, difficulty concentrating, less time spent socializing, anxiety, and sexual problems.


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