SEATTLE — The days are getting shorter, the skies are getting darker, and the clocks are rolling back this weekend, meaning sunshine is about to become a rarity around Puget Sound. The University of Washington School of Medicine is sharing some tips to help Washingtonians fend off the effects of Seasonal Affective Order — or “SAD.”
Dr. Heidi Combs, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UW, shared some telltale signs of SAD, along with strategies for treating the symptoms.
“For Seasonal Affective Disorder, the symptoms include the classic low mood, a reduced interest, so not interesting in doing things that they normally do, and not finding joy in the things that they normally do. Concentration is reduced, so it’s hard to stay focused on things. Energy is lower. People are more fatigued.”
As the name suggests, SAD is a depressive disorder linked to seasonal patterns, with symptoms typically seen during the months with the least light.
“Light is influential because mood is connected to circadian rhythms, which correlate with light,” UW Medicine writes. “Light also helps produce vitamin D, which helps our mood. Light also controls molecules in the brain that help maintain serotonin levels.”
Studies have found that serotonin levels can rise and fall in cycles, and typically are lowest in the darker months. People experiencing symptoms of SAD may also have “serotonin dysregulation.” One of the easiest and cheapest ways to combat some seasonal effects includes specially-made lights that emit at least 10,000 lumens, Combs said, which can be found for less than $50.
“The amount of light actually for treatment of this is beyond what you would get from just daily normal exposure,” Combs said. “So, you prescribe light therapy for individuals, and they use a lightbox, and the lightbox is designed specially to screen out damaging UV light so that there’s no injury.”
Depending on each patient’s specific case, other options may help too, including antidepressant medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and regular exercise.
“I think anything you can do to get up and move around, it helps with anxiety, it helps with depression, it clearly helps with your physical health as well,” Combs said. “So, any of those things that you can engage in as far as physical activity is really healthy for your overall mental health.”
Source: Bellevue Patch