Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal effective disorder or “SAD” is thought to affect at least 1 in 50 people in Britain.

Seasonal effective disorder (SAD) causes misery for those suffering from the condition through the darker winter months.  The symptoms of SAD usually start around October/November and can last until March/April.

The winter blues is a less severe type of seasonal effective disorder, which is thought to affect around 1 in 8 people during the winter months. For reasons not fully understood SAD tends to affect 4 times as many Woman as it does men and the condition is most common to affect those between the age of 20 -30 years of age.

It is widely thought that SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter months. The lack of sunlight causes reduction in the amount of serotonin and melatonin that are chemically produced in our brains.  These 2 chemicals are thought to effect mood and because the brain produces less in the winter months, we can become depressed.

Some Symptoms of SAD include,
•    Wanting to sleep more than usual
•    Feeling fatigued
•    Low self esteem
•    Anxiety
•    Decreased interest in Sex
•    Low tolerance to stress
People suffering from SAD tend to gain weight as they crave sweet foods and carbohydrates, which in itself can cause depression, and low self esteem.

There are several treatment options available to combat SAD. One of the most common treatments is light therapy. This involves buying a light box that you sit in front of for about 30-34 minutes per day. It is recommended that you use a powerful light  (10,000 LUX). This treatment is thought to be effective for a high number of SAD sufferers as the light box mimics sunlight and helps to boost the serotonin levels in the brain and boost your mood. Studies have shown that symptoms can improve in as little as 3-4 days after first use.

Although light boxes are a safe treatment, there have bee concerns about retinal damage from sitting close to a bright light. However there have been no reported cases of any damage to the eye and specially designed light boxes have to meet safety standards.

Another great invention to help fight SAD is the sunrise simulator alarm clocks that are available from several different manufacturers. The idea is that the alarm begins to slowly light up 30 minutes before the time you desire to wake simulating a natural sunrise. This way you should wake naturally to bright light and feel refreshed, rather than having to roll out of bed in the dark. Some studies have shown this to be effective in helping to regulate mood and energy levels.

Seasonal effective disorder causes misery for many during the dark winter months but there is hope in combating it and that hope is light. Make sure you get as much sunlight as you can and a light box and sunrise simulator alarm clock are both good investments.

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