As with depression, the severity of SAD symptoms can vary from person to person—often depending on genetic vulnerability and geographic location. For many, the symptoms usually begin mildly at the start of fall and get progressively worse through the darkest days of winter.
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To be clinically diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, you need to have experienced these cyclical symptoms for two or more consecutive years. But you will feel better. If you are feeling suicidal, know that there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time, so please reach out for help. While the exact causes of seasonal affective disorder are unclear, most theories attribute the disorder to the reduction of daylight hours in winter. The shorter days and reduced exposure to sunlight that occurs in winter are thought to affect the body by disrupting:.
Circadian rhythms. The longer nights and shorter days of winter can disrupt your internal clock—leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times. Production of melatonin. During the short days and long nights of winter, however, your body may produce too much melatonin, leaving you feeling drowsy and low on energy. Production of serotonin. A deficit may lead to depression and adversely affect your sleep, appetite, memory, and sexual desire. The less common form of SAD, summer depression, begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall.
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Instead of being attributed to shorter days and reduced sunlight, experts believe that summer SAD is caused by the opposite—longer days and increased heat and humidity, possibly even an upswing in seasonal allergies. Many summer SAD symptoms are the same as those for winter depression, although there are some differences. As with any form of depression, there can be many different causes and contributing factors for seasonal affective disorder.
Always consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and see the lifestyle changes outlined below for help to boost your mood and manage your depression symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder can affect anyone but is most common in people who live far north or south of the equator.
Other risk factors include:. Your gender. While 3 out of 4 sufferers of SAD are women, men often experience more severe symptoms. Your age. In most cases, winter SAD is first diagnosed in people aged 18 to 30 and is less likely to occur as you get older. Your family history. The changes in seasons can trigger mood changes in some people with bipolar disorder.
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Spring and summer may trigger symptoms of mania or hypomania, while the onset of fall and winter can bring on symptoms of depression. While the depression symptoms of SAD and bipolar disorder can look alike, there are significant differences, especially when it comes to treatment. See Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms. Seasonal depression can make it hard to motivate yourself to make changes, but there are plenty of steps you can take to help yourself feel better. By adopting healthy habits and scheduling fun and relaxation into your day, you can help lift the cloud of seasonal affective disorder and keep it from coming back.
Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun without wearing sunglasses but never stare directly at the sun. Sunlight, even in the small doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. In fact, exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.
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Exercise can also help to improve your sleep and boost your self-esteem. Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic.
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The most benefits for depression come from rhythmic exercise-such as walking, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or dancing-where you move both your arms and legs. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days. Even something as simple as walking a dog, for example, can be good exercise for you and the animal, as well as a great way to get outdoors and interact with other people.
Call or email an old friend to meet for coffee. Or reach out to someone new —a work colleague or neighbor, for example.
Most of us feel awkward about reaching out, but be the one to break the ice. Join a support group for depression. Being with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and provide inspiration to make positive changes. Meet new people with a common interest by taking a class, joining a club, or enrolling in a special interest group that meets on a regular basis.
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Volunteer your time. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself, expand your social network, and overcome SAD. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. Whatever the time of year, too much stress can exacerbate or even trigger depression.
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Figure out the things in your life that stress you out , such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact. Each time you recognize those triggers and avoid rewarding them with food you are effectively breaking down the connection between the trigger and the desire until that same trigger no longer produces a craving at all. Since Never Binge Again came out I've conducted more than interviews and demonstration-coaching sessions.
The "Food Demon Interviews" includes 11 of the very best ones The most inspiring, the most eye-opening, transformative coaching sessions I held with real clients You'll learn everything from Dr. This is your chance to read his story in full so you can more effectively leverage his success to stop overeating All Rights Reserved. Products and Services.
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