The turning of the leaves and the shortening of days often denotes the arrival of holidays, ski season, and other merry occasions. For some, however, the changing of seasons indicates the onset of an almost inexplicable gloom. This influence of seasons on mood has been labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as seasonal depression.
This subset of depression usually occurs in the winter months though there is a rare occurrence of SAD in the summer months. Symptoms often include hypersomnia, cravings, weight gain, low energy, and social withdrawal. Risk factors comprise of a family history of SAD and living far from the equator where day/night hours change drastically.
Although this type of depression is not fully understood, causal theories suggest that the limited amount of sunlight during winter months may be responsible for a decrease in serotonin and an increase in melatonin, which are neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep. Additionally, some studies have also shown that those with SAD may have a Vitamin D deficiency.
There are several current treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy has proven to be effective. It is intended to replace the lessened sunlight and entails sitting by a light box of cool-white fluorescent light for 20 to 60 minutes a day.
Vitamin D supplements are often used, although research results on its effectiveness are mixed. Medications and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are also accepted forms of treatment. Here at The Neuro Clinic, we have experience treating various neurobehavorial conditions using several noninvasive effective treatments. Among others, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Neurolinguistic Programming are currently being implemented with notable success.
Knowledge is power, and understanding how our bodies respond to our environment gives us the power to effectively overcome such challenges. If you're curious about how your brain works, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter, NeuroNews, or come in for a consultation! We'd love to answer any questions you have!