What Experts Say About Seasonal Affective Disorder
I've been getting a lot of questions recently about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), about what it is, how to cope with it, and what we can do to prevent and live with its symptoms. I decided to write this post to share some of my findings, so you can have all of the information you need in one spot.
First, I am not a doctor, if you find yourself needing help, call this National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for a referral to a mental health specialist in your area.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression related to the changing seasons. SAD is most often seen beginning in the fall and going into the winter months.
Related: Practice Self-Care in the Fall to help relieve the effects of SAD
It's common for people to brush some of the symptoms off as “winter blues” says the Mayo Clinic, but it's important to understand it's okay to not just “tough it out”.
Click here for a list of symptoms of SAD, from the Mayo Clinic Web site.
Is Seasonal Affective Disorder a Real Thing?
Researching this question was interesting. It turns out to be a toss-up.
Some researchers believe yes it is. MOST doctors agree it is, and use several studies to prove it.
However, there is one recent study saying it is not real, or there is no evidence of it.
This is the study saying there is no proof it exists.
Researchers used data gathered from the Center for Disease Control to survey a cross-section of Americans using a phone survey, where they dial their answers in answering automated questions.
I found this study to be eye-opening, but I don't believe it crosses Seasonal Affective Disorder out as a “real thing”.
Personally, I am not sure I believe it, but I thought I would link it in here as well, in case you were interested. There are lots of studies saying a lot of things.
Maybe it's hard to see this disorder in the general public, or maybe the questions weren't direct enough, or maybe it's hard to see when you're looking at such a big picture.
Local doctors have seen results in their own clinics, and have shown great success in implementing the treatments that have been studied.
You will have to come to your own conclusion, here.
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Who Is At Risk for SAD?
According to Psychology today Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD.
This makes it pretty common in America.
Another study suggests that latitude has a lot to do with the prevalence of SAD, showing proof that the more north you are in America, the greater risk you are to suffering from SAD. You can find that study here.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the risk factors for SAD here. I'll add a few here:
- being a woman makes you four times as likely
- family history
- distance from the equator
Related: Create a Journal to Jumpstart Your Mental Health
How Do You Prevent Winter Blues?
This is a complicated question. Ideally, we can all take simple steps to avoid depression and be happy all the time.
Wouldn't that be nice?
Winter Blues are of course different from Seasonal Affective Disorder. A simple case of winter blues may be preventable. TheHealthy provides some tips for preventing winter blues, you can find them here.
Every single article I've read talked about the benefits of light therapy on mood and imbalances.
In the 90s there were a lot of studies about SAD, I found the original that talks about the benefits, you can view it here.
Interested in your own light machine? You can get one here.
What Vitamins Will Boost My Mood?
Studies have shown Vitamin D is the shining star of vitamins that will help with SAD.
BBC has a great article about Vitamin D and Seasonal Depression here.
Another vitamin that everyone should take is Magnesium. It's the unsung hero of wellness, I write in-depth about the benefits of magnesium here.
Daily Habits to Help With SAD
Anxiety and depression go hand in hand, here is a great piece about daily habits to reduce anxiety.
Another way to help with all wellness issues is to revamp your morning routine so it works for YOU. Grab my guide for crafting your morning routine below.