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Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder – There is Help and Hope

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Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects millions of people every year nationally.

The main culprit is the lack of sunlight, as well as weather and temperatures creating an environment where people stay indoors. It is more common in women and young adults. Decreased sunlight can throw off circadian rhythms, decrease melatonin, and trigger decreases in serotonin production, said Denish Lash, MD, a psychologist and director of Intermountain Healthcare Behavioral Health for Mental Health Integration.

“People with seasonal affective disorder have typically experience a change in mood and/or sleep patterns that in the body,” said Dr. Lash.

Symptoms of SAD

The symptoms can of seasonal affective disorder can include sad or anxious mood, loss of interest in activities irritable, restless, excessive fatigue, sleep issues, weight gain, headaches, upset stomach, and potential suicidal ideation.

It’s important to see your doctor if you are experiencing these issues. If you are having any suicidal thoughts or concerns, call the contact the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, advised Dr. Lash.

Tips to Help

There are natural ways that can help ease the symptoms of SAD. To help counter the effects of seasonal affective disorder, vitamin D is your best friend.

“The sun can be your resource when trying to get vitamin D,” said Dr. Lash. “Whenever possible, try to sneak some time outdoors. Even a walk around the neighborhood can be very helpful.”

With the limited amounts of sunlight during the winter, there are other methods that could help. Such as with light therapy boxes. Avoid UV lamps and look for lightboxes that are 10,000 lux. Turn them on for 20-30 minutes in the morning while you get ready for the day. This will give your body increased exposure to the light it is used to receiving during the warmer months.

Exercise is also a natural mood booster. It will help releasing endorphins in your body, and also helps with combatting weight gain.

The Center for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. This can be that walking around the neighborhood 3-5 times a week -and outdoor exercise combines light exposure with physical activity.

Talk to someone

Most important of all, says Dr. Lash, is to talk to someone. Reach out to family, friends, or anyone to talk about how you feel. You can reach out to your family provider or a therapist to get resources or call to get help.

“You are not alone in this and there is help,” she said. 

If you or someone you know needs immediate support, contact the Utah Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, 24/7). Intermountain Healthcare also has an Emotional Health Relief Hotline if you just need someone to talk to or you need resources (1-833-442-2211, 10am-10pm, 7 days/week).

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