Seasonal Affective Disorder, often called SAD or seasonal depression, is a form of depression that develops for a limited period of time, most often in the winter. About 3% of people experience seasonal affective disorder which can have all the same symptoms as clinical depression, making it difficult to go about your everyday life and leaving you feeling extremely unhappy.
Because seasonal depression can have an intensely negative effect for several months of the year, having strategies to prevent them and knowing how to respond if you feel the onset of SAD can help you keep your moods more balanced throughout the year.
Ways to Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder
Although SAD can occur in any season, it is most common in the winter months. For this reason, scientists believe that it is a result of changes in circadian rhythms due to changing exposure to sunlight. It is possible to have seasonal depression even if you are not depressed at other times of the year or seasonal depression can exacerbate existing depression symptoms. But there are a few steps that you can take to help combat the effects of SAD:
- Get Outside – Shorter days mean that you will have less sun exposure. As you go about your daily routine, try scheduling errands during the day so you can get some extra sunlight or plan on a midday walk or other outdoor exercise. If possible, you can also adjust your workspace so that you are by a window.
- Exercise Regularly – Physical activity can help maintain circadian rhythms by causing you to feel energized and restful on a schedule. Outdoor exercise in sunlight is a great option, but indoor exercise can suffice as well, even if the activity is as simple as a walk or some light stretching.
- Use Light Therapy – Light therapy is one of the most recommended treatments for SAD. It uses a powerful light that emulates sunlight. By sitting in front of this light for several minutes each day, you can help regulate circadian rhythms.
- Get the Right Depression Treatment – If you are already dealing with depression, seasonal affective disorder can make it significantly worse. On its own, seasonal affective disorder can become disruptive as well. In these cases, more targeted treatment may be necessary. Psychiatric treatment for depression can provide effective medication to manage depression symptoms and reduce the challenges that depression, including SAD, can cause.
While seasonal affective disorder in Dallas is often rarer than in other parts of the country where cold and wintry weather tends to keep people indoors, many people around Dallas still experience SAD every year. If you have noticed the symptoms of depression this winter or are looking to treat an existing form of depression, our team at Aware Behavioral Health can help. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.