Posted by: ~KC~ | November 5, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the winter months approach, I feel compelled to write about this, as I am already feeling some if its effects already.  I suffer from a seasonal depression, also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), as many Canadians do. As a matter of fact, here in Canada, approximately 2-4% of the population suffers from this disorder. Luckily for me • it is a mild case and I don’t need prescribed medication for it… and I can treat it with holistic medicines and practices, while being monitored by my family physician.I wanted to talk about this though, as we enter into the fall and winter months, where the effects are its height for many SAD sufferers. Researchers show that women are eight times more likely to suffer from it. It usually first appears when people are in their 20-30s and usually lasts until mid-50s where its prevalence tends to decline.

Here are some of the symptoms of SAD:
Low mood, reduced interest in normally pleasurable activities, decreased concentration;
Oversleeping (often an increase of 4 hours or more each day);
Low energy and fatigue;
Intense craving for carbohydrates;
Weight gain and carbohydrate/sweets craving;
Withdrawal from social contacts;
Depression.

Here are some, but not limited too, root causes for SAD:
Fewer daylight hours may reduce important mood altering chemicals in the brain;
Hormonal disruption (cortisol, thyroid)
Reduced retinal sensitivity to light,
Low winter temperatures may trigger the body to rest and disrupt circadian rhythms;
Barometric pressure and precipitant levels,
Psychological mechanisms and personality traits may all be contributing factors.

But before we start self-diagnosing ourselves, it is imperative that your doctor rules out a diagnosis of clinical depression or manic depression, which resembles many of the symptoms and root causes of SAD. Most cases of SAD • sufferers have unipolar depression but as many as 20% go on to have bipolar or manic depressive disorders. So it is imperative that you seek the right diagnosis and be treated accordingly.

I have chosen a more holistic approach to treating this disorder, combined with a healthier diet and exercise regime (where I tend to fall a little short at best of times). Because my case is considered mild, these methods help me tremendously. However, my family doctor is on top of this and I am always prepared for more, if necessary.

Aromatherapy • Grapefruit essential oils have a potent effect on the mind, as well as the body. It provides your body with that happy feeling. Also, Ylang Ylang essential oils or Geranium is fabulous for mild depressions. Geranium has a powerful effect on depressive moods – negative feelings diminish and are replaced with feelings of well being. Ylang ylang helps to balance and calm emotional trauma. Geranium is quite subtle, while Ylang Ylang can be more euphoric in its effect.

Vitamin B12 – the right dosage will help alleviate the stress on the body that comes from SAD. It provides you with enough energy to help you thru the day and allows your body to function at a fairly normal pace.

St. John’s Wort – Personally • this is my miracle ‘drug’… an all natural oil that has been used my many to treat depression. It is just as effective as many of the chemical drugs out there with less or fewer side effects. The only caution • if you are fair skinned • avoid sun exposure while taking this oil. Although • for me since I tend to take it when there is a light deficiency, this doesn’t apply. Also • if you suffer from high blood pressure • please consult your physician before using it. You could have a reaction to tyramine (or foods containing tyramine) while taking St. John’s Wort.

Light Therapy – this is the most popular ‘therapeutic’ coping mechanism for SAD. The only problem with it is that it tends to blur your vision, give you headaches, tends make you nauseous • only to name a few. Personally… a few mins in the tanning bed boosts up the vitamin D production that is lacking during the winter months. For me • this is sufficient.

For those that have more severe cases of SAD • light therapy is perhaps the only solution, combined with a chemical, prescribed narcotic to monitor the effects of this disorder is in order. I do not advocate going against your doctor’s advise but where possible… taking a more holistic approach to healing is never a bad thing. Combined with meditation and relaxation/breathing techniques, it is possible to survive the Winter months and the stress it brings to the body. 

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Responses

  1. OK, I’m totally going to check out the grapefruit essential oil – thanks for the tip.

    I suffer from SAD – self-diagnosed but I have noticed since moving from sunny Alberta to dreary Seattle that I need a happy lamp for the winter time.

    It has coincided, however, with an ever so slight perimenopausal shift – I want to howl at the moon on certain days of the month now and I never used to be that way.

    So long story short, SAD plus PAD = BAD news in the Schmidt haus!

    Hoping a bright sunny day comes your way, KC. 🙂

  2. Hi KC,

    I have heard of this disorder before. Thankfully I don’t seem to suffer from it but I certainly can understand it as I don’t like winter for many reasons, including particularly the shorter daylight hours. Now that spring is here and we’ve had some just divine days (including today – a Public Holiday) there is just no doubt how much the seasons and the weather can influence our sense of wellbeing.

    I was a little alarmed about the tanning bed though. Recently we had a very sad case of a beautiful young woman dying of skin cancer after using tanning beds. She deliberately raised the issue publicly, and to her credit, our Federal and State Governments are now tightening up the legislation about the use of these facilities. I would recommend that people be very cautious about using these, especially anyone with fair skin.

    Anyway, I do hope that so far, the change in the seasons and weather are not having any negative impact on you so far.

    Hugs and love,

    Kerrie

  3. Kerrie – hon… I understand and can appreciate the dangers of tanning beds… but I got for no more than 20 mins (in fact… less at best of times) no more than 3x a week. I definately don’t do the self-tanning sprays.. they are not pretty!!! LOL!!!

    I don’t get into the beds for a TAN… but for the light and healing attributes it has for the creation of Vitamin D. I’m not in them long enough to do damage and am monitored by my family physician. I know others who take it overboard and that is SCARRY!

    Glad you are well hon!

  4. It’s so cool that you write about this; even way south of you in Oklahoma I feel some of the same effects; I’m a big believer in the light therapy–what a difference it makes! I’d never heard of the grapefruit aromatherapy before but will add it to my list of things to try next time I’m feeling a little low. I’m glad you are trying these things first and not going straight to pills, not that there’s anything terribly wrong with them, but I think mild depression can be treated and maybe prevented in ways that don’t involve medication. So good for you. I hope you get through the winter without any major emotional blowouts. Toni

  5. I think I would suffer from this if I lived somewhere up north terribly, it affects me a teensy bit here where it is much more sunny.

    I just caught up on your last several posts and it is a lot to absorb. As usual your writing is from your heart and I appreciate that you share it with us.

  6. I’ve tagged you with an annoying blog meme – come visit my site to see details….tag team, you’re it!


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