Do You Suffer From Seasonal Affective Disorder? Here Are Some Tips.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called Winter Depression,  effects about 24% of the American population. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is depression that a person experiences only during the late fall and winter months. Their depression lifts as Spring approaches and the days lengthen.

There are several theories as to why this occurs.

  1. The shortened days cause a change in serotonin production.
  2. The lack of sunlight causes disruption to the body’s biological clock, throwing natural body rhythm out of whack.
  3. Lack of sunlight, and the position of the Earth to our Sun causes the human body to manufacture less Vitamin D.

SAD is more common among people who live far above the equator. For people in the United States, SAD is significantly less common in people who live in Florida, Southern California, or Southern Texas,  and more common in people who live north of Florida. Statistically speaking, women are more likely to experience winter depression. However, I believe that statistic is flawed. In general women are more willing to discuss symptoms like those associated with SAD with their doctor. In general, men tend to take a “power through it” approach and are less likely to report symptoms associate with depression of any kind, including SAD. If you want to know if a man is depressed, talk to his mother, significant other, or children, not his doctor. And, based on that, I believe that winter depression effects men almost as often as it does women.

Regardless of the exact cause, sex, or geographical location, people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder experience a wide range of symptoms.

  • Mood changes like irritability, grumpiness, decreased patience, anxiety, feeling sad, restlessness
  • Weight gain
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Difficulty finding “fun” in their life
  • Sleeping more
  • Always feeling tired
  • Inability to get involved in winter holidays and celebrations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Avoiding social situations (this only applies to generally social people)
  • Increased social anxiety, being unusually concerned with social rejection
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling helpless
  • Otherwise unexplained physical complaints like upset stomach, loss of appetite, headaches, etc.

Of course, these symptoms could be caused my a lot of other things, so getting a clear evaluation by your chosen health provider is important.

In allopathic medicine, SAD is treated with anti-depressants, and sleep aids; both with varied success. Natural medicine offers a wide range of coping strategies.

  1. Increase your exposure to light. Get up earlier, and sit outside as the sun rises. Wear as little as the temperature allows so that the sunlight hits your skin, and skip the sun glasses. When the rising sun hits your eyes it encourages the body to release endorphins and other “anti-depression” hormones.
  2. Get your Vitamin D levels checked, and supplement as necessary.
  3. Invest in a light therapy lamp. These are lamps that mimic the sun’s wave lengths. Light therapy lamps have been proven to improve SAD symptoms in many people. When it come to light therapy lamps, do your research before buying. You don’t need a super expensive lamp, but you do need an effective one.
  4. Watch what you eat. Avoid sugar, wheat flour, and other foods that cause blood sugar spikes.. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable, and avoiding the spikes, helps to regulate mood.
  5. Consider Saint John’s Wort for depression.
  6. Pay close attention to sleep hygiene.
  7. Get adequate nutrition.
  8. Use aromatherapy to lift mood
  9. Try acupressure, acupuncture and chiropractic care to ease symptoms of depression.
  10. Plan activities you enjoy to give yourself something to look forward to.
  11. Consider Low dose naltrexone (LDN)


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