LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE:
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Ah yes, the you can just now begin to feel the cold bite in the air during the mornings and evenings. Soon the leaves will turn all sorts of brilliant colors. The autumn season is on it's way. I love the fall. It's my favorite season of the year.
Unfortunately, for many who suffer from a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the dread of the upcoming change in seasons is growing.
I am writing this late summer article for those of you who struggle with seasonal depression, or have wondered if you might. I am writing now, before the onset of the fall season, because I want for you to be proactive before this problem gains a foothold in your life.
The research is unclear about the average percentage of the population that suffers from seasonal affective disorder. There has been substantial studies of those with depression, bipolar disorder and atypical depression, which show that 60% or more with these particular diagnoses have additional elevations in depression symptoms during the fall and winter seasons.
We've all heard the term "biological clock." We are now somewhat sure of exactly where this resides in the brain. One responsibility of our biological clock is to measure the amount of light that comes through our retinas. Then our nervous system communicates this information to the Pineal Gland. The Pineal Gland is responsible for producing Melatonin. The more light that comes through, the less Melatonin that is produced. In the fall and winter, when daylight hours are much fewer, the Pineal Gland produces much more Melatonin.
Ironically, Melatonin is a hormone known to have many positive benefits for us. It is prescribed for insomnia, helps with jet lag, improves immune function and is an antioxidant. The bad news for those of you who suffer from SAD is that it seems Melatonin is the culprit.
The symptoms for Seasonal Affective Disorder include, but are not limited to the following list:
Decreased physical activity; much more sedentary
Increased levels of fatigue
Unclear or sluggish ability to think
Feeling slowed down physically and mentally
Previous history of elevated depression in fall/winter
Strong cravings for sweets and starchy foods
Now, if some of this sounds familiar to you, and you're sure you do not struggle with seasonal depression it's because we all slow down some in the winter. We're biologically built to go into a sort of natural hibernation mode. The difference is when the symptoms listed above significantly impair several of your important life areas, such as family, social and work productivity in such a way that you are much less functional.
Take a proactive stance now. We're all familiar with "Prevention is the best medicine!" Have a fall and winter plan. Please, do it now while you are better able to put together a thoughtful plan of action. Here are some starters:
Plan at least three social activities each month
Expose yourself to as much bright light as possible
Stay or become physically active through exercise
Have good support systems in place
Buy an indoor light box which gives 10,000 Lux natural
full spectrum lighting
Start a natural or prescribed antidepressant four weeks
prior to the beginning of mid-fall and terminate use four
weeks following the end of winter. Talk to your family
doctor about this.
For those of you who already have a depression diagnosis of one kind or another, and you know you dip deeper into depression in the fall and winter, this proactive approach is absolutely vital for you. And, I have some additional ideas for you.
Adjust the dosages of your antidepressants at the
beginning and end of the fall/winter seasons
Add 3 new stress management skills to your skill base
You should own and use a light box, even in the
Monitor depression using a simple daily mood chart scale of 1-10, with 10 being severe depression. Commit to a "planned ahead" action you will definitely take (like seeing your family doctor) if your rating is over 6,
three or more days in one week.
Make a list of past symptoms - a trigger list if you
will. And share it with one other person.
A light box should be used very specifically, and there are a few concerns about using light boxes for seasonal affective disorder.
Light boxes work similar to the description above. If more light goes through the retinas, on to the biological clock, and through the nervous system to the Pineal Gland, the production of Melatonin will slow. The result will be elevated mood.
If you have any type of eye problems involving the retina you must consult your eye specialist first, before using a light box. These types of eye problems include macular degeneration, retinitis, pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy.
The minimum amount of time to use a light box for a positive effect is 30-60 minutes. Generally the first positive response reported from sufferers of seasonal affective disorder is increased energy levels.
If you oversleep and struggle with getting up in the morning the best time to use your light box is in the morning. And, I know you don't want to hear this, but the best way to use the light box is to get up 30 minutes early and use it immediately for 30 minutes.
If you tend to nod off early in the evening, only take wake up too early in the morning and cannot get back to sleep the best time to use the light box would be in the evening.
Be careful if your diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder. You can still use a light box, and probably should, but there is some risk that you could go into a hypomanic or manic phase. The best time for Bipolar folks to use the light box is in the mid-afternoon. It is also strongly suggested that you stay on, or use a mood stabilizer medication in combination with the light box.
Seasonal affective disorder is a very real and debilitating disorder. I suspect it will show up in a future edition of the diagnostic guide for the psychotherapy profession. You can make a remarkable difference in the quality of your fall and winter seasons by taking action now. Please help yourself out, you deserve to feel good year 'round!
To your best autumn and winter season ever!
Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer &
www.Overcoming-Depression.com Sign up for this newsletter by
visiting either site above.
Another Steps Forward With Her Hope Story. Will You Be
Terri emailed me, sharing her story about being depressed and also
living with someone who's depressed. It's a must
read! Visit the Blog to see her story. Will you be next to
add to our online journal of hope?
Take a moment and email
me a success moment in your fight against depression so I can
add it to the blog (online journal) next. Our resource
for each other is growing!
you don't know where you're going, any road will take
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do not have the confidence, the strength, the motivation
to go out and get a job. How do I overcome this when
it is so very important to work for a living? I'm
married, but he shouldn't have to do all the work.
most important thing that I wished I knew is if you are
suffering from depression or not. Depression can
plow you under. It destroys confidence, sucks your
strength (even the mightiest of you!) and wipes away
motivation as if it were dust on a table top.
proven that the most powerful depression treatment systems for
the treatment of depression are Cognitive-Behavioral and
Interpersonal Therapy. I have had great success
combining both with a type of therapy referred to as Narrative
you are depressed, the first goal is to receive treatment for
this disorder. Once a level of stabilization has been
reached and you feel as though you have positive momentum,
then it is safe to move on to other issues. Moving into
painful issues prior to stabilization can set you up for
other issues dissipate once depression is under control.
in your case, if you are not depressed or have come to a
period of stabilization, and continue struggling with the
issues stated above I have several beginning ideas for
you. Here's one.
come from a strengths perspective. I don't know you at
all but I can tell you with 100% confidence that you have
fantastic life experiences/stories that reflect wonderful
strengths in you. Unfortunately you, like so many who
struggle, spend most of your time preoccupied with the
results are predictable. The unconscious is so easily
programmed, but it takes it's programming very seriously.
unconscious is very powerful.. All it takes to program
it is authority (you), intensity and repetition..
imagine being preoccupied most days with thoughts around what
you didn't do today and the feelings that accompany
those thoughts. Are you beginning to understand?
Can you see the authority (you), re-running today's
failure story over-and-over again in your mind (repetition)
and feeling horrible (intensity)?
unconscious is now programmed to manifest more of the same for
think about a success moment in your life. REALLY
experience it, as if you were right back there. How does
it look, feel, sound and smell? Now ask yourself about
the qualities you see in yourself within that story.
Allow the words and/or the sounds of the words to mix into
that memory as you re-experience that nice moment.
Rewind it in your mind and play it several more times.
yourself you'll visit that memory at least as many times as
you visit the failure memories. Add other success
moments to the first. That's a beginning...
have To Suffer In Isolation
are out there reading this newsletter and suffering, you can
do something about it now! I know you can feel so alone
in your pain. I am extending my hand. I've helped
thousands, but you have to take the first step.
Make the suffering stop. You can do it simply by asking
for help now.
I need your help now