Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is so named as being a depressive mood disorder associated, particularly in Northern European countries with the coming of autumn and the closing in of the winter months with little warmth or sunlight.
We all are attuned to natural circadian rhythms of the body which have us “in sync” with the daily rise of the sun, with a natural tendency towards feeling tired and sleepy towards the evening and absence of sunlight. Everyone knows about the difficulties that we face with fast intercontinental air travel which causes the disruption to our circadian rhythms that is known as “jet lag”.
SAD is believed to be caused by the failure of natural sun light and the gloomy approach of winter to adequately stimulate the hypothalamus in the brain. Through the eyes and optic nerves are sent signals that it is not as light as it usually is. In certain people who are sensitive to the perception of less light, the response of the hypothalamus is to increase levels of melatonin in the body, a chemical which promotes sleep. The hypothalamus also down regulates melatonin with more light and during daily activity.
SAD has similar effects to jet lag – people become irritable, prone to wanting to sleep more, having to work when they feel a need to sleep can make people feel exhausted and more depressed. SAD affects all the regulatory systems of the body.
One of the risks for SAD is that people will attempt to self medicate with drug use, particularly alcohol. As alcohol is a depressant, mood elevation is short lived. In extreme cases of SAD there can be suicidal feelings, memory dysfunction and extreme lethargy.
Treatments for SAD include Bright Light Therapies (BLT) in which a person is exposed to around three hours at a time of light of a similar spectrum to sun light – which makes them feel more awake and less depressed. Alternatively, doses of melatonin can be considered to better regulate sleep.
People with SAD expect to feel depressed as winter approaches and also anticipate recovery. For some an easy solution to the problem might mean abuse of alcohol.
Whilst there is no harm in using BLT as a natural therapy – it is better if a person can develop skills and strategies so that they are independent of external help to bring about relief from seasonal depression and possible drug abuse.
Addict help to overcome alcohol dependence as a result of depressive feelings includes making healthy changes to your lifestyle and routines so as to allow for more access to natural light, and not to spend long periods in ill lit rooms.
Also finding social and interesting activities will help to stimulate the mind, regardless of the light. Addict help for drug abuse and keeping a good diet will help to minimize any kind of depression, whether seasonal or otherwise.
Those most susceptible to SAD may already have depressive feelings which simply emerge when a person is less “on top” of his feelings, in cold, dark gloomy months. People prone to SAD will find depressive symptoms to be more intense. Those with drug use problems need addict help.
Rather than simply await each winter expecting the worst – try holistic counseling to get emotional help. If you resolve depressive issues before winter comes along – you won’t need hospitalization, BLT treatments – or shots of melatonin.
If you get SAD, use holistic counseling for depression and addict help – and winter won’t bring you down.