By Rich Adams
Fall can be a time of joy for a number of reasons. The trees turn spectacular colors of red and orange. Firearm deer season could mean venison in the freezer. Cooler temperatures mean snow is not far away, lifting the spirits of skiers, snowboarders and sled enthusiasts.
The fall and winter season also means a reduced level of sunlight, lower levels of serotonin and melatonin, which brings out seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – in some people.
SAD can bring a drop in energy and make people moody. SAD also occurs in spring or early summer, but less often than in the winter months, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
The National Institute of Mental Health noted that certain attributes may increase a person’s risk of SAD, including:
Short of prescribing winters in Florida, how do doctors treat SAD?
One option is through medication. The National Institute of Mental Health reported selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to treat SAD. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved the use of bupropion, another type of antidepressant, for treating SAD.
Another treatment that does not involve medications is light therapy. The concept behind light therapy is to replace the diminished sunshine of the fall and winter months using daily exposure to bright, artificial light. Symptoms of SAD may be diminished by sitting in front of a light box in the morning on a daily basis from the early fall until spring.
Psychotherapy is yet another option to treat SAD, according to the institute. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for SAD and relies on basic techniques of identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive thoughts along with a technique called behavioral activation. Behavioral activation seeks to help people identify activities that are engaging and pleasurable, whether indoors or outdoors, to improve coping with winter.
Vitamin D supplementation has mixed evidence as an effective treatment of SAD. People with seasonal disorder have been found to have low levels of vitamin D. Some studies have shown vitamin D may be as effective as light therapy, but others concluded vitamin D was ineffectual.
You should talk with your physician, according to WebMD, if you feel irritable, extremely tired or depressed the same time each year. Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and treatment to ease the impact of SAD.