Last year, when I was helping my sister to cope with the spells of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that she was suffering from, I came across a very interesting piece of info. According to the American Psychiatric Association, every winter, 10 to 20 percent of the population fall prey to SAD, which is otherwise known as “winter blues”.
There are some more things for you to know. Though in most cases, SAD symptoms take place in the winter months, or during late autumn, some people are even diagnosed with symptoms that start in late spring, or in summer. At the onset of winter, seasonal affective disorder symptoms may include:
- Mood swing.
- Low energy.
- Weight gain.
In summer, in case of reverse affective disorder things can take a 360 degree turn and the patient can suffer from:
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- More sex drive.
- Rapid speech and thought.
Moreover, 20% of the people suffering from SAD can develop bipolar disorder or manic-depressive disorder as well. Here, patients with affective disorder may suffer from diverse type depression, including hypomania in summer and major depression in winter.
A careful observation, as well as the right medical supervision make it easier to diagnose this disorder , and even if any of your near and dear ones are found to have SAD, don’t feel low, various forms of effective treatment, including psychotherapy, medication or a slight change in diet can help men and women to have a better mental health.
Just back them with a little clinical help, and some support, they will come out of the blues. How let me discuss you about the different ways to deal with this disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Drugs
To start with people suffering from mild attacks of SAD do not usually need medicines, but to quote Douglas Jacobs, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, there is “a subset of people who suffer severe symptoms on an annual basis,” and for them, medication “can be very, very useful.”
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already approved the antidepressant drug bupropion hydrochloride extended release (Wellbutrin XL) to treat SAD patients. Experimentally, almost 1,000 people with seasonal affective disorder were indiscriminately chosen to choose either any antidepressant drug or Wellbutrin XL, which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
The trial, which was sponsored by the company, started in early fall and ended in spring. Later, it was estimated that 84% of the people who took the FDA approved drug could rid themselves from depression, while the rate of success remained confined to a mere 72% of the patients who took the other placebo.
However, just as any other medicinal drugs, even Wellbutrin XL comes with certain health risks. Its intake may lead to deterioration of the symptoms of depression and perhaps, it can also evoke suicidal thoughts or behavior.
There are many more drugs which have been found to be quite useful to treat SAD patients, and among them, the medicines from the SSRI or serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor family, deserve special mention. The drugs that fall under this category include fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).
These medicines work by enhancing the serotonin level in the brain, and they are even compatible with other antidepressants, including tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). In fact, till date, escitalopram and fluoxetine are the only antidepressants authorized for tending depressive disorder in adolescents.
As a matter of fact, Fluoxetine is also approved as young as 8 years! Since these medicines particularly act on serotonin, they have fewer side effects than other antidepressants. But even then, they are not devoid of certain risks, such as:
- Less sleep.
- mental agitation,
- Mild tremor.
- Drowsiness (very common among the patients).
- Dry mouth.
- Lack of medication.
- Headache, Flu-like feeling.
- Heart palpitation.
- Delayed orgasm or lack of it.
- It can decline the manic symptoms in bipolar patients.
- Weight gain is not improbable.
Apart from the above mentioned drugs, stimulants like modafinil (Provigil) can also help to treat SAD.
In homeopathy, cell salts of Mag Phos, Kali Phos, or Nat Mur, can offer some relief from depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Lamp
The American Medical Association as well as the American Psychiatric Association advocates light therapy or phototherapy to be a very effective means of keeping depressive mood at bay.
It has been observed that thanks to the seasonal pattern, and also owing to the body’s reaction to less sunlight, the occurrences of S.A.D are more frequent in northern latitudes. So this therapy imitates outdoor light and attempts to cause a big change in brain chemicals, which are connected to mood.
How Do They Make It?
First of all, light therapy calls for extremely bright light. To make it, a light box is needed which can produce almost 10,000-lux, which is about 20 times brighter than usual room lighting. For best results, patients need to sit about 23 inches away from the light. Make sure that the patient sits with his eyes open.
The light box is placed at eye level on such an angle that it offers maximal comfortable and efficacious view sans glaring too much at it. Patients may read at the desk, or simply sit at the chair. Just maintaining the optimum temperature is necessary. Ideally, this must be done 20-30 minutes a day. If done regularly, Patients can feel its effect within two days or two weeks of the treatment.
If the indications do not better, the treatment can be increased up to 45 minutes every day. Nevertheless, certain researches show that light exposure in early morning somewhat yields better result than exposure in the noon. And ideally, Light therapy should be started by late August/early September, before the problems start.
The efficacy of light therapy still calls for debate, but many studies have proved that just about 75% of S.A.D. sufferers have enjoyed a better mental health after undergoing light therapy.
However, prior to buying a light therapy box, it is always wise to consult a doctor to get a high-quality unit.
Now as for the side effects, patients under light therapy often complain of eyestrain, cephalalgia, dry eyes, and reduced sleep. If this happens, you can cut down the time of treatment or make your patient sit farther from the light.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Natural Treatment
Since SAD is a temporary condition, and only 5% of adults are diagnosed with a form of the disorder, those who do not wish to risk its side effects for suffering from further health hazards, can think of healing themselves with alternative means.
For anything else you can think of the herbal remedies which are readily available from nature. After a good deal of research, I came to know about the calming effects of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) . In fact, study in 1993 revealed that St. John’s Wort can work wonders to make SAD patients feel far better in the months of winter. In this regard, I would also like to make some additions.
Usage of certain essential oils, such as Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) can treat feelings of anxiousness and sorrow. It even reduces high blood pressure.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) oil comes with certain chemicals which can exert a tranquilizing effect. For the best results, the essential oil can be used in a hot aromatherapy bath.
Though Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is an expensive one, it can be used for alleviating the heightened levels of anxiety and tension.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is another effective oil to treat nervousness and mild insomnia.
The anti-depressant Jasmine essential oil can stimulates beta brain wave activity which is computed by EEG.
The flower essence of Mustard can eliminate the feelings of ennui from life.
Have you ever thought how a slight change in diet and how a mere incorporation of some very important dietary elements can do wonders to the mental health of your near and dear ones? Eating the right way can actually a big difference in your life! Try incorporating as much B vitamins as possible (of course in the recommended level).
Vitamins B6 and B12 are known to make blood cells healthy and apart from that, they can affect the functioning of brain for good and thus, improves the psychological state of the patients. Basically, these vitamins trigger dopamine production. It is one of the most important neurotransmitters accountable for pleasure.
So, daily intake of these vitamins can help your patient to do away with mental fatigue. The food sources of these vitamins are egg, fish, meat, milk, cheese and fortified cereals. A vegan patient can go for supplements. Optimally, the sufferers should take 1.3 to 1.7 mg of vitamin B6 and 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 every day.
Have you ever heard of Melatonin? It is a natural hormone that helps to control mood. Even a slight change in season can lead to melatonin imbalance in our body. Also, it is a master sleep hormone. In darkness, the secretion of melatonin starts in the body. It helps us to fall asleep.
Throughout the night, the hormone continues to be secreted, and towards dawn it diminishes to ooze out, and allows us to wake up in the morning. If a problem with this system takes place, and it continues to persist, several psychological problems can occur.
Although the melatonin secretion is generally found in otherwise healthy people is found to be the same in SAD patients in winter months, researchers’ speculation that people with SAD can have melatonin secretion for more time in the early morning hours. This well explains why people with SAD may have difficulty to wake up, and why don’t they feel alert in the morning.
Providing the perfect Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment can get more than challenging to a caregiver, and evidently, to accelerate the effects of the therapy that you try on the patients, you can never rule out the importance of affective support to the sufferer.
To enhance the effects of the treatment and to improve the overall mental and physical fitness, it is very important to take steps to manage everyday stress, and for the reason, you can always consider professional counseling. An everyday stroll, or some light aerobic exercises can also bring many positive thoughts in life, which can help to combat psychological problems and thus emotional disorders and diseases are likely to be at bay.
If possible, you can also take a trip to south in the winter months. Try these steps, and you will see that improving this regrettable condition, even without medical aid is not actually impossible.