Many people experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a sort of anxiety associated with winter. It is primarily caused by a biochemical disproportion in the hypothalamus because of decreased daylight time and presence of little sunlight in winter. Many people experience depression because of this. For some, SAD is a grave sickness which stops them from carrying out routine matters of life, while others feel little anxiety and this could be said to be caused by the ‘winter blues’. Only serious SAD problems require medical treatment.
There are many symptoms that you can generally notice in people suffering from SAD. They like to sleep more than usual and find hard to stay awake for long. Some also find it hard to sleep peacefully and awake early because of sleep disturbance. They also feel fatigued, and are unable to carry out routine matters in a normal way. Some also crave for carbohydrates and sweet foods. Feelings of melancholy, remorse and despair are also commonly observed. Some people suffering from SAD also become stoic in this ailment, while others feel irritated and avoid socialising.
The symptoms of SAD normally reoccur repeatedly every winter between September and November and extend till April. You can diagnose SAD after 2 or more successive winters. In case of sub-syndromal SAD, tiredness, lethargy, sleep and appetite problems can be seen, however, little or no symptoms of depression can be found. The symptoms of SAD withdraw in spring. It may happen gradually or suddenly, varying from individual to individual. One may experience SAD at any age, however, mostly people from 18-30 years of age experience it.
There are a number of treatments that can cure one of SAD. Light therapy is very effective to treat SAD, and it has proved successful in more than 80% of cases. In this therapy, you are exposed to brilliant light, at least 10 times the intensity of domestic lighting. The minimal dose for treating SAD is 2500 lux. This treatment should be used regularly in winters. It means wearing a Light Visor and sitting 2-3 feet away from a specially designed light box or waking up to a dawn simulator. Then you need to let the light to shine on your eyes. You can continue with your everyday routine tasks during the treatment, as it is not compulsory to stare at the light.
Light therapy begins to show its effectiveness within 3-4 days, and its effect continues if it is done regularly. You should not wear sun glasses, tinted lenses, or anything that blocks the light from entering your eyes. Moreover, exposure to natural daylight is of great help in treating SAD.
Some drugs, for example tricyclics, are not helpful for treating SAD, as they can aggravate drowsiness and weariness all the more. Non-sedative SSRI medicines like paroxetine, Lustral and Prozac are effective in treating this disorder. Other psychotropic medications, including lithium and benzodiazepines, are not very effective for curing symptoms of depression in SAD. Counseling can also help certain individuals in overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder.