Bright Light Treatment For Seasonal Depression
Therapy with bright light has also been found to be effective in the treatment of seasonal depression.
A 2014 study in BMC Psychiatry found that four weeks of a 12-minute daily dose of bright light administered via ear canals significantly reduced depression scores among patients with seasonal depression.
In 2009, a study in Depression and Anxiety found that 60 percent of patients with seasonal depression responded to a blue light therapy.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Sad
As with other kinds of depression, a person with SAD may notice any or all of these:
- Changes in mood. SAD can cause a mood thats sad, depressed, or irritable. SAD can make people feel hopeless, discouraged, or worthless. They may cry or get upset more easily.
- Negative thinking. A person can become more self-critical, or more sensitive to criticism. They may complain, blame, find fault, or see problems more often than usual.
- Lack of enjoyment. People with SAD may lose interest in things they normally like to do. They may lose interest in friends and stop participating in social activities.
- Low energy. People may feel tired, low on energy, or lack motivation to do things. To them, everything can seem like it takes too much effort.
- Changes in sleep. A person may sleep much more than usual. They may find it especially hard to get up and ready for school or work in early morning hours.
- Changes in eating. SAD may bring on cravings for simple carbohydrates and the tendency to overeat. Because of this change in eating, SAD can result in weight gain during the winter months.
- Trouble concentrating. Like any depression, SAD can make it hard to focus. This can affect schoolwork and grades.
With SAD, a person notices these changes only during the time of year when there are fewer hours of daylight. As the season changes and days become longer again, their depression gets better and their usual energy returns.
Who Gets It And How
While the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown, there are several theories about the cause. Most theories attribute SAD to reduced levels of sunlight in the fall and winter months. The shorter days and reduced sunlight exposure are thought to affect the body by:
- Disrupting a persons circadian rhythm ,
- Triggering lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood,
- Producing higher levels of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone.
Risk factors for developing seasonal affective disorder include:
- Being female. SAD is diagnosed more frequently in women compared to men.
- Younger age. Younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults.
- Family history of seasonal affective disorder or other forms of depression.
- Having major depression or bipolar disorder.
- Living far from the equator. It is thought that the further a patient lives from the equator, the more common seasonal affective disorder may be. Residents of cloudy regions can also experience seasonal affective disorders, as well as those who relocate from living closer to the equator to further away from it.
Estimates suggest that about half a million people in the U.S. have seasonal affective disorder, though an additional 10% to 20% may have a milder form of the winter blues.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The main symptoms of SAD include:
- having trouble waking, and sleeping more than usual
- feeling tired and lethargic
- feeling more hungry than usual and craving stodgy and sugary carbohydrates
- gaining weight
- finding it hard to stay connected with family and friends
- feeling anxious, irritable and experiencing a low mood
- having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- losing interest in sex
- feeling helpless or having suicidal thoughts
The symptoms of SAD often get better during the spring and summer months.
How Gorgeous Summer Days Can Actually Make You Miserable
If the 4:30 p.m. sunset has got you feeling blue, youre definitely not alone.
Starting as early as November, those who struggle with seasonal depression, or really any sort of depression, can feel stuck in a rut with no sunlight to help them feel better on dark days literally.
First recognized in a 1984 study by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, Seasonal Affective Disorder affects a shocking one-fifth of the population on the Northeast Coast. Symptoms include increased appetite, social isolation and cravings for junk food.
Come winter, the lack of sunlight and vitamin D, disruption of sleeps circadian rhythms and the isolation that occurs in colder months especially now during a second winter pandemic are all factors that could contribute to someones seasonal or regular depression.
Now for some silver linings on this storm cloud: There are some therapies that may be able to help. Some swear by a light therapy lamp, exposing themselves for just 10 minutes a day to get some fake sun, while others take vitamin D supplements or find other ways to stay positive and relaxed. While none of these is a cure-all for the winter blues, the suggestions below may be the breath of fresh air and blue skies that help make the days a bit brighter.
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Medication And Psychotherapy For Seasonal Affective Disorder
While light therapy is often a highly effective treatment for SAD or the winter blues, it doesnt work for everyone. If thats the case, dont despair, there are other effective treatment options available and plenty of self-help techniques to help you feel better.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be highly beneficial for people with seasonal depression. The right therapist can help you curb negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that make the disorder worse and help you learn how to manage symptoms and deal with stress in healthy ways. For many people, CBT can be as effective at treating seasonal affective disorder as light therapy or antidepressants, but without any risky side-effects.
Medication. If light therapy doesnt work for you, your doctor may suggest antidepressant medication. SSRI antidepressants work by acting on serotonin levels in the brain to reduce SAD symptoms. In the U.S., the FDA has specifically approved the drug bupropion to treat seasonal affective disorder. However, as with all antidepressants, there may be adverse side effects, including a number of safety concerns specific to children and young adults. Its important to weigh the benefits against the risks before starting on medication.
Whatever treatment plan you settle on, its important to combine it with self-help techniques to help manage your depression symptoms and even help prevent seasonal affective disorder returning next year.
Sad Risk Factors: Most At
- Women. SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than in men.
- Those who live farthest from the equator. SAD is more common in areas far north or south of the equator.
- People with a family history of SAD or other types of depression.
- People with depression and bipolar disorder.
- Younger adults.2
SAD most typically occurs in younger adult women . Women who do shift work, like nurses or other healthcare workers, are at increased risk of SAD since they make up for lost hours of sleep in the daytime when the sun is shining. Craving carbs, oversleeping frequently, and becoming severely fatigued in the winter months are common complaints.4
SAD Risk Factors: Most At-Risk Groups
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Benefits Of Red Light Therapy For Depression
At first, it might seem strange that red light therapy, a treatment regularly recommended for external conditions, could have an impact on the chemical imbalances in someones brain.
In reality, though, there are quite a few ways that red light therapy can support mood improvements and lessen symptoms of depression, including the following:
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Eat More Tropical Foods
If you can’t escape on a tropical getaway, bring the tropical getaway to you. Add beach-y foods like coconut, pineapple, and mango into your diet so when you’re feeling down from the cold, you can close your eyes and imagine some sandy beaches and perfectly-warm ocean water. Plus, the vitamin-packed goodies will benefit your health at the same time.
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How Common Is Sad
About 4 to 6 percent of people in the United States have SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. And as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it often called the winter blues that starts when days get shorter and colder, the organization adds.
Women and young people are more likely to experience SAD, as are those who live farther away from the equator. People with a family history or diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder may be particularly susceptible.
“It is important to treat SAD, because all forms of depression limit people’s ability to live their lives to the fullest, to enjoy their families, and to function well at work,” says Deborah Pierce, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York.
To help manage SAD, here are a few options you might want to consider.
How Can You Help Someone With Seasonal Depression
If you feel that someone is suffering from seasonal depression, the best way to help them is to reach out your hand and offer some quality time with them. Another way of helping them is by asking them questions about them and just listening. That way, they can express themselves openly.
Some people may say that seasonal depression is something that should not be addressed because its short-term but this mindset should change. An individuals mental health is as important as physical health. Peoples mental health should matter in their homes.
As people, the best thing that we can do to stop people from hiding their seasonal depression and mental illnesses is by not stigmatizing these problems. The Philippines still has a long way to go in addressing mental health problems but by being more considerate on what people are going though, each and every one can contribute a step along the way.
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How To Alleviate Your Symptoms Increase Your Energy And Improve Your Mood
- Get at least one hour of fresh air outside per day , even in the dead of winter. Indoor lighting is not as beneficial as natural light.
- Allow sunshine into your home. Lighter coloured paint on your walls can also help to increase luminosity.
- Get physically active. Practising winter sports will be beneficial.
How Does Light Therapy Work
To use light therapy, or phototherapy, you get a special lamp. It has white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The light is about 20 times brighter than regular indoor light. The intensity of light emitted should be 10,000 lux.
To use phototherapy, dont look directly into the light. Place the lamp about 2 or 3 feet away while you read, eat or do other activities.
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How Is Sad Diagnosed
Depression often happens with other conditions, such as heart disease or cancer. It may also happen with other mood disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety. For these reasons, early diagnosis and treatment is key to recovery.
A diagnosis of SAD may be made after a careful mental health exam and medical history done by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
Red Light Therapy: A Natural Way To Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter, especially during the holidays.
Seasonal effective disorder is a type of depression that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal affective disorder, for many, occurs in the fall and winter with the arrival of cold weather. If youve felt down around this time of year, youre not alone. On average about 5% of the U.S. population, roughly 16.4 million people, suffer from seasonal affective disorder every year.
Why is it that people feel depressed in the fall and winter? A major factor is the lack of exposure to natural light. Exposure to natural light plays a big part in our mood. Light is an essential ingredient for human health, but is often overlooked as being a key contributor to our health and well-being.
So how can you increase your exposure to natural light and ultimately help with seasonal affective disorder? Our answer is red light therapy!
Red light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that delivers concentrated natural light to your skin and cells. Red light therapy has been clinically-proven to help significantly reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder with just two 10-minute sessions each week over the course of 8 weeks.
How exactly does red light therapy work to cure seasonal affective disorder?
Proven clinical research to help with depression
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Get 30 Minutes Of Fresh Air
Even though the outdoors is the main reason for our feeling low, it can help us fight SAD. You want to stay indoors where you are warm and dry, but doing this for extended periods will affect you.
Those same effects of cabin fever will start appearing after a while, leaving you pent up with frustration and depression. To fight this, find 30 minutes each day to step outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and get some natural light.
You can pair this with your daily exercises to knock two things off your to-do list.
How Can We Recognize The Symptoms
The symptoms of seasonal depression appear particularly towards the end of fall, and last until the arrival of spring every year. A diagnosis is made once you have suffered from symptoms of seasonal depression for at least two consecutive years.
Very similar to the symptoms of regular depression, seasonal depression affects the quality of life of those suffering from it. Among the symptoms of seasonal depression, we find:
- Depressive mood that lingers throughout the day
- Loss of interest in activities that we normally enjoy
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts.
If you display one or more of these symptoms each year, you may be suffering from seasonal depression. If so, it is important to consult your doctor, who will make the diagnosis and be able to help you. ou can also talk to your pharmacist.
Light therapy is an alternative to counter the symptoms of seasonal depression. – Francine Denis, Brunet’s affiliated pharmacist-owner at the Donnacona branch.
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Should You Seek Depression Treatment In Michigan
No matter the time of year, if you think you have depression, you should seek help. While you cannot stop the seasons from changing, there are things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, following a sleep schedule, and avoiding drugs and alcohol are highly beneficial to overall well-being. Spending at least 20-30 minutes outside, especially on sunny days, will boost your vitamin D levels. Having a solid support network is one of the best defenses against seasonal depression, so stay involved with friends and family as much as you may not feel like it. Additionally, light therapy boxes or lamps are available almost everywhere, but you should consult your doctor before using one.
Sometimes, managing seasonal depression on your own does not work. There are significant benefits to seeking professional help for your depression. If your symptoms worsen or you begin to have suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. At the Rose Hill Centers depression treatment center in Michigan, we provide a safe and supportive environment where you can heal and grow. Our program options include programs such as:
- Residential rehabilitation
What Causes Winter Seasonal Depression
Although seasonal depression has been widely researched, its exact cause is unknown. However, as seasonal depression tends to occur in the winter months, many medical experts have pointed to diminished sunlight as a trigger for depressive episodes.
Shorter days and cooler weather tend to reduce the amount of sun and UV light exposure you get during winter. This means your body cannot efficiently create vitamin D, resulting in lower levels in the body during the winter.
Lower vitamin D levels
Reduced vitamin D levels may play a role in causing SAD. This is because vitamin D can directly affect mood through its interactions with important mood regulators like hormones and neurotransmitters.
Lower vitamin D levels in the winter could account for the imbalance of serotonin common in individuals with SAD¹.
Low vitamin D serum levels² have also been shown to worsen depressive symptoms in some cases.
Lower serotonin levels
Serotonin is a mood-regulating neurotransmitter that requires vitamin D for its creation. According to the serotonin hypothesis, lower serotonin levels in the brain may increase the likelihood of developing types of depression, including SAD.
Researchers have found that individuals with SAD have lower levels of serotonin¹.
Another possible cause is increased production of melatonin during winter. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
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How To Do Light Therapy At Home
Before you start light therapy, its a good idea to talk with a doctor or mental health professional. Light therapy may interact with other treatments youre currently taking, such as medications.
Once youve had a doctors sign off, you can start by reading the instructions provided by the light box manufacturer.
A light with lower intensity may require longer exposure time meaning youll have to sit in front of the box longer. The instructions can also help you identify specific risks and hazards for the brand of the light.
To use a light therapy lamp with 10,000 lux intensity, follow these steps:
You can adjust this schedule and the duration of sessions according to how you feel. You can also try passing the time in front of the light box with an activity like reading a book or working, as long as youre still facing the light.
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