Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter. It may begin during the teen years or in adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more often in women than in men.
People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD. A less common form of the disorder involves depression during the summer months.
Symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. They are usually the same as with other forms of depression:
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
- Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
SAD can sometimes become long-term depression. Bipolar disorder or thoughts of suicide are also possible.
As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective.
To manage your symptoms at home:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Take medicines the right way. Learn how to manage side effects.
- Learn to watch for early signs that your depression is getting worse. Have a plan if it does get worse.
- Try to exercise more often. Look for activities that make you happy.
- Practice good sleep habits.
- Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. These can make depression worse over time. They may also affect your judgment about suicide.
When you are struggling with depression, talk about how you're feeling to someone you trust. Try to be around people who are caring and positive. Volunteer or get involved in group activities.
Light therapy using a special lamp with a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun may also be helpful.
Start treatment during the fall or early winter, before the symptoms of SAD begin.
- Follow your health care provider's instructions about how to use light therapy. A common practice is to sit a couple of feet away from the light box for about 30 minutes every day. This is usually done in the early morning, to mimic sunrise.
- Keep your eyes open, but do not look straight into the light source.
- Symptoms of depression should improve within 3 - 4 weeks if light therapy is going to help.
Side effects of light therapy include:
Eye strain and headache
- Mania, less often
- People who take drugs that make them more sensitive to light, such as certain psoriasis drugs, antibiotics, or antipsychotics, should avoid light therapy.
A check-up with your eye doctor is recommended before starting treatment.
With no treatment, symptoms usually get better on their own with the change of seasons. However, symptoms can improve more quickly with treatment.
From Pub Med Health, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Full Article
General Mental Health Resources
The menu on the right will link you to information on specific mental health topics. -->
Below are additional links to excellent websites for mental health information:
- Go Ask Alice: Website operated by Columbia University to answer the questions of college students on issues related to physical health, mental health, and sexuality.
- Half Of Us: This engaging youth-oriented site uses video stories of students and high-profile artists to increase awareness about mental health issues and the importance of getting help.
- Healthyminds.org: This website of the American Psychiatric Association offers a broad array of information on topics related to mental health.
- Helpguide: Website operated by a non-profit organization offers information and resources on a broad range of mental health topics.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): An advocacy group for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Good source of information and resources on mental health topics.
- ReachOut.com: An information and support service using evidence based principles and technology to help teens and young adults facing tough times and struggling with mental health issues.
- ULifeLine.org: An online resource for college students with information about protecting your emotional health and what to do if you or friends are struggling with mental health issues.
- Student Health 101