What Is SAD?SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it, usually, manifests in the winter months. People see any form of depression as a long, helpless, dark period that patients experience. But SAD is a seasonal depression, and it often improves around spring and summer. Statistics show that four to six percent of people may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so take this clinical condition seriously.
What Causes SAD?The reasons why some people develop Seasonal Affective Disorder are not completely clear yet, but the seasonal characteristics of the disease link it to the lack of or reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months. Because of the reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter, people who live in the north are more likely to experience symptoms of the disease than those who live in the south. Sunlight is fundamental for the correct functioning of the hypothalamus. One of the responsibilities of this region of the brain is coordinating the activity of the pituitary gland, controlling, among other functions, our body temperature and emotional activity. This gland is responsible for producing two very important hormones: melatonin that regulates the sleep cycles, and serotonin that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Higher than normal levels of melatonin can make you feel sleepier than usual, while lower levels of serotonin trigger common feelings of depression such as behavioral changes in mood, increase or loss of appetite, and insomnia or excessive sleep. These hormonal imbalances paired with the reduced exposure to sunlight highly affect your circadian rhythm or internal clock that tells you when to eat or when to wake up. For those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, being able to control these hormonal imbalances is an important step to dealing with the disease.
What Does a Person with SAD Feel?Most people feel a bit moodier on a dark, rainy day. That is a normal physiological reaction to the cold season. But, for a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, those symptoms last longer, are recurrent every winter, and are not manageable without some sort of support. SAD is a type of depression; therefore, the symptoms are similar to other types of this condition. People suffering from SAD feel lethargic, are melancholy, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and feel more irritable than usual.
Diagnosing SADThese signs are not enough to diagnose someone with Seasonal Affective Disorder. The seasonality of these symptoms is crucial to determine it. If you are experiencing these symptoms or have a family member or a close friend who experiences feeling depressed in the winter, but recover when the days grow longer again, there is a chance it is SAD. Like any other medical condition, being informed about and voluntarily looking for data should be regarded as a way of screening symptoms and not to be taken as a diagnosis. Knowing exactly how to explain to your doctor what you are going through is important in reaching a diagnosis.
How to Help Someone with SAD Deal with Their SymptomsIf you are close to someone who is experiencing these symptoms or are experiencing these yourself, take them seriously and don’t dismiss them immediately as just being under the weather. Often people who are going through this type of depression don’t know about SAD and the disease’s symptoms. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness are common in depression, and shouldn’t be exacerbated by the lack of knowledge about this illness. Although SAD is usually dubbed as the “winter depression,” finding ways to deal with the disease are not as easy as going out to enjoy as much sunshine as possible. Hormonal imbalances are delicate and affect people in different ways. Besides, forcing someone who has lost interest in daily activities to leave the house may be counter-productive. As someone with the disease begins to understand the causes and the symptoms, they can take small steps to control it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help patients to start understanding their triggers and reactions, and, eventually, lead them to make small adjustments in their lifestyle to cope with this mental illness. Getting as much sunlight exposure as possible (either naturally or using a light box technique that simulates sunlight exposure), regular exercise, and resorting to all-natural mood supporters are among the most frequent medical tips for coping with the symptoms of SAD.
What Are Mood Supporters?Simply put, the human body is a complex machine of chemical reactions. How you manage it and keep it, what you expose it to, and, ultimately, what you ingest affect this fragile balance. Understanding the signs your organism sends you and knowing how to respond in case one of the alarms goes off are crucial for a serene and healthy existence. The idea that we are what we eat is not a contemporary concept, nor is it solely linked to dietary excesses like the overconsumption of sugars and fats. However, this notion is quite simple, as it means that the base for a healthy life is a healthy diet. This is true both in physical health and mental health. There has been a shift in how we face mild illnesses, from the need to suppress all symptoms to learning how to cope with the disease and have balanced lives. Seasonal Affective Disorder, as a mild type of depression, can benefit from this approach to health. Mood supporters for SAD patients are like little buttons they can push themselves to help them balance their brain chemistry. Instead of resorting to a medical strategy of taking only prescription drugs, SAD patients can benefit from complementary treatments like taking all-natural supplements or changing some daily habits. If the person with Seasonal Affective Disorder is taking any other medication for it, it is advised to discuss with their doctor if they should consider complementary medicine (such as taking all-natural mood supporters) as an approach that fits their condition.
What Should You Look for in All-Natural Mood Supporters for SAD?SAD patients should always confer with their doctors to find the best all-natural mood supporter for their specific case. It is important to remember that all people are different, and therefore react differently to medication and need different dosages or different ingredient combinations. Most importantly, your doctor is the right person to explain to you what should be your optimal levels of melatonin and serotonin. The most studied and most common natural ingredient used to treat depression is St. John’s Wort. This plant has been used in the treatment of depression for centuries in European countries, and its usage can be traced back to ancient Greece. Chemicals like hypericin and hyperforin can be found in St. John’s Wort and are thought to be responsible for this plant extract’s effect on depression. Serotonin, known as the happiness hormone, and tryptophan are also ingredients to look for when searching for all-natural mood supporters. Serotonin is normally produced by the human body, but, in patients suffering from SAD, the levels are below normal. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the human body needs to synthesize the hormone.
How Effective Are the All-Natural Mood Supporters?The American Family Physician Association strongly recommends St. John’s Wort for short-term relief of mild depression in adults, “based on consistent evidence from high-quality systematic reviews.” Although it’s not widely popular yet in other Western countries, in Germany doctors regularly prescribe St. John’s Wort as a treatment for mild depression. Like any other treatment, the effectiveness of this herbal extract in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder may vary. Although it hasn’t been established how it actually works, the chemicals found naturally in the plant (hypericin and hyperforin) increase levels of serotonin in the brain in the same way as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), but without the side effects usually caused by those drugs. As for the serotonin-based mood supporters, hormonal balance is crucial. The correct dosage of serotonin and prescription should be overseen by your doctor.
Are There Side Effects for All-Natural Mood Supporters?Herbal medicines are considered natural remedies, but it doesn’t mean they can’t cause side effects or interact with other medications. It is advised to seek a doctor’s opinion before starting any treatment. Mood supporters made with St. John’s Wort should be taken for short periods of time (up to 12 weeks) and shouldn’t be taken with any other medication for depression. If patients experience side effects like trouble sleeping, anxiety, or irritability, either take the mood supporter in the morning or lower the dose. Mood supporters with serotonin should be taken with caution since excessive levels of this hormone can lead to a medical condition called Serotonin Syndrome. This can happen by combining other depression medications with serotonin supplements, causing the body to respond to an overload of the hormone with symptoms that include high fever and irregular heartbeat.
St. John’s Wort