What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It's more common than you may realize. First described in the 1980's, this very real mood disorder is has been shown to be prevalent in both hemispheres, and more so in areas further from the equator. Aptly abbreviated S.A.D., it is widely believed to be caused by shorter days and lower light intensity. Some research provides evidence that it may also relate to cold weather, a shortage of food, or other seasonal changes.
How Can I Fight These Low Moods?
- The most common cause of S.A.D is a relative lack of light. The disorder appears in 1 in 100 people in the southern United States, but 1 in 10 people in the northern parts of Alaska. This is no coincidence, as areas closer to the North Pole see significantly less sunlight during the winter. Fortunately, some sufferers of S.A.D. can see a marked improvement in their symptoms with the use of lightboxes. Lightboxes provide a broad spectrum of wavelengths, similar to those which you would experience on a sunny summer day. Exposure to these light boxes has been very effective at lowering the depressive symptoms of many people who experience S.A.D. But they are certainly not a miracle cure - 50% of people who try lightboxes continue to complain of S.A.D. symptoms.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been effective in lessening the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you opt for this method, we would suggest seeing a clinician who specializes in this condition as the methodologies may be different from those of standard CBT. Specifically addressing issues such as intolerance of cold weather, for example, can be a big help.
- Melatonin is effective for the sleeplessness that many people with S.A.D. also experience. If you try melatonin, start with the lowest dose. You may gradually increase if you don't see effects after a few weeks, but the best practice is to stay on the lowest possible dose that helps you. You could also try mixing a short-acting and a long-acting preparation. This combination may help you fall asleep faster as well as stay asleep longer.
- Fourth, plant metabolites, such as terpenes, can assist people with stress, anxiety, and moods. While this has not been studied scientifically, there is a significant rationale behind replacing the terpenes that are less prevalent in the winter, when plant metabolism is slow. Whether you use standard aromatherapy methods such as room diffusion or topical application. the mere act of breathing in terpenes may be effective in lowering stress, improving restfulness, and boosting mood. When you breathe Paleo Air® you are breathing as our ancestors breathed! One could consider that S.A.D. is merely one of the many manifestations of Terpene Deficiency.
- Finally, if none of the above methods have worked for you, you may consider prescription mood medications. Of course, please consult your physician or psychiatrist for recommendations on whether medication could be right for you. While anti-depressants can be very effective, some have numerous side effects. We encourage you to try all of the above methods first and only look to medications as a last resort.
Do you have another trick for fighting the symptoms of S.A.D.? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below! Happily, however, there are many ways of improving your mood when S.A.D. hits you.