Are you depressed? Do you have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

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Seasonal Depression Symptoms and Treatment Options.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD), is a form or type of depression.  It happens in a recurring pattern either at the beginning of winter or at the beginning of summer. Such a diagnosis must meet the major criteria for a major depression, but it happens at the same time every year when the weather conditions change, and you must have had it for two years running or more in order to qualify for the diagnosis.  DSM V.

 What are the symptoms of a major depressive disorder?

  1. Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  2. Feeling hopeless or worthless
  3. Having low energy
  4. Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  5. Having problems with sleep
  6. Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  7. Feeling sluggish or agitated
  8. Having difficulty concentrating
  9. Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide


Symptoms of the winter pattern of SAD

  1. low energy
  2. hypersomnia
  3. overeating
  4. weight gain
  5. craving carbs
  6. social isolation or withdrawal

Remember the existence of one or two of these symptoms is not enough to obtain a diagnosis. There are scales and checklists that identify what qualifies. So just because you recognize a few of these does not mean that you are depressed or that you have sad, but if you do, we want you to know what to do about it.

Women are 4X more likely to have SAD and be diagnosed with it as a form of depression than men.  Also, the further away you are from the equator the more likely you are to develop it, and finally younger adults and teens are more at risk that older adults to develop it.

It is possible that if you have SAD you have it because of the weather and the lack of sunshine, but you can also manifest it because your body has trouble regulating some of the various neurotransmitters in your brain. Another possible cause is that you produce too much melatonin, and finally you may make too little vitamin D. If it is determined that you have SAD, there are treatments for it!

One such treatment is light therapy. There are light systems that are on the market that you should discuss with your physician. Generally, it is recommended that you spend 30 minutes to an hour sitting in front of a light facing it, usually when you first get up in the morning. There are even some systems on the market that you can take to work if you work in an office you can take a “sun” break. Many of the people who are diagnosed with sad find that this helps avoid or alleviate their symptoms.

Other treatments involve medications, particularly SSRI’S, with the most common one being Wellbutrin, but never take a medicine without discussing it with your doctor. Also remember that with antidepressant meds it takes a couple of weeks or more to obtain the benefits you are seeking in the way of change.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy can also help people with SAD. Often the focus is on what we call cognitive behavioral therapy, this will teach you how to do thought stopping and how to refocus yourself on more positive thoughts. Meditation and creating positive scripts leading to what we call behavioral activation can help you break out of the cycle of lethargy and low energy. But remember, when treating depression, the code is often fake it until you make it.

Finally, think about getting vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is a critically needed substance in your body and it is primarily made from sunshine. If you are not out in the sun at all or most of the time you work in doors, then you may need to get some vitamin D. discuss this with your doctor as a strategy. Determine how much he/she would recommend and see if that will help you fight off the doldrums.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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