How to Beat S.A.D
October 26, 2018
Dr Norman Rosenthal wrote the book on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Winter Blues, and has pioneered its treatment with light therapy. While SAD doesn’t have the intensity of of major depression, it falls under the spectrum of subsyndromal depression, meaning an individual may have two or more symptoms of depression that persist for two or more weeks.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
When two or more of these symptoms occur on a daily or almost daily basis and cause social dysfunctions like withdrawal, isolation or behavior changes, an individual may be experiencing subsyndromal depression.
- Significant change in weight or appetite
- Excessive need or lack of sleep
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Loss of enjoyment in activities you usually like
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
- Feeling fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Noticeable restlessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
To receive a major depression diagnosis one must feel 5 or more of these symptoms, while individuals with subsyndromal depression only experience 2-4.
While subsyndromal depression is not considered official depression, it can have the same impact on an an individual suffering from it and experiencing it is considered a risk factor for eventually being diagnosed with major depression. If you feel your depressive symptoms are increasing it’s important to seek professional support in the form of therapy and possibly medication. If those first line treatments are not successful, consider alternative therapies like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
When Subsyndromal Depression is Cyclical
When in individual finds that their experience of subsyndromal depression is cyclical, increasing in the darker winter months, they may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Symptoms typical begin in late fall or early winter and begin to subside in spring or summer. SAD occurs four times more in women than men. It occurs more frequently in areas furthest from the equator. While the cause of still unknown, some believe individuals with SAD may overproduce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and is directly impacted by light exposure. It’s also possible individuals with SAD may produce less Vitamin D, which is linked to serotonin production and also directly impacted by light exposure.
Dr Rosenthal’s Tips for Improving SAD
In addition to light therapy, Dr Rosenthal suggests the following to improve overall mental health and decrease the impact of SAD:
- Get Enough Sleep
- Begin your day with a healthy meal- avoiding animal fats and high-impact carbs
- Meditate- Just as if not more important than exercise for mental health, working the parasympathetic nervous system, and brining relaxation
- Build meaningful relationships with people would support you
- Find your life’s meaning- When you work has no fulfilling purpose you need to look outside of it to give your like meaning. One of the best ways to do this is giving back. It feels good to help others, seeing and feeling how you’ve made someone’s day or life better
- Travel somewhere sunny in the winter- not everyone has the luxury of this option, if you’re able definitely try!