Written By: Marcelina Malinski, RP

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern, which usually begins in fall and continues into the winter months. Due to lessened exposure to sunlight in the shorter days of winter, many people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some common symptoms include feelings of sadness and depression, lower energy levels, problems with sleeping, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating.

These symptoms may be especially pronounced during December, January, and February.

There are several key evidence-based treatment approaches to combating SAD.

Try the following five moves for a merrier mood:

  • Get outside and into the sunshine. SAD is a disorder precipitated by lack of needed exposure to sunlight [1]. Getting outside and into the sun can promote a brighter mood. Remember to wear sunscreen!
  • Bright Light Therapy. Light boxes, which emit full spectrum light similar to sunlight, can be purchased and used first thing in the morning to relieve symptoms of SAD [2].
  • Supplement with Vitamin D. Research investigating the association between Vitamin D and SAD suggests that taking 100,000 IU (one-time dose) may improve symptoms [3].
  • Counselling. Therapeutic counselling approaches provide support to individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been effective in alleviating symptoms of SAD [4].
  • Consume nutritious foods. In addition to Vitamin D, the consumption of B vitamins, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, zinc, and antioxidants, are also essential for neural functions. Studies demonstrate that deficiency in these nutrients may result in altered memory function and cognitive impairment, as well as the development of major depressive disorders [5].

If you believe you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, speak to your doctor. Consult with a healthcare practitioner before implementing any vitamins or nutritional supplements.

References

  1. Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression research and treatment2015, 178564. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/178564
  2. Weil, A. Light Therapy. [Fact Sheet] Tempe, Ariz, USA: Andrew Weil MD; 2015. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03222/Light-Therapy.html. [Google Scholar]
  3. Stewart, A.E., Roecklein, K.A., Tanner, S., & Kimlin, M.G. Possible contributions of skin pigmentation and vitamin D in a polyfactorial model of seasonal affective disorder. Medical Hypotheses. 2014;83(5):517–525. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.09.010. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
  4. Rohan, K.J., Mahon, J.N., Evans, M., et al. Randomized trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy versus light therapy for seasonal affective disorder: acute outcomes. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2015;172(9):862–869. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14101293. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
  5. Sarris, J., Logan, A.C., Akbaraly, T.N., Amminger, G.P., Balanza-Martinez, V., Freeman, M.P., et al. (2015). Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. Lancet Psychiatry 2, 271–274. 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00051-0 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

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