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Light Therapy May Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

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feeling-sad-this-winter-maybe-light-therapy-is-for-youFeeling SAD this Winter? Maybe Light Therapy is for You!

For many people, the post-holiday season can leave them feeling a little down. If you find yourself feeling blue this winter, you may just have the winter blues and there are things you can do to get out of a funk. However, another possibility is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

SAD is a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year, often starting with the shorter days in the fall and lasting through the winter. However, some people find that they are so busy over the holiday season, that they don’t notice some of their symptoms until after the holidays.

While SAD is diagnosed most often in women, men with SAD may experience more severe symptoms. No one really knows for sure what causes SAD; one theory is that it is the lack of sunlight causing havoc with our bodies, disrupting out biological clock, melatonin, and serotonin levels. It is important to know that is it very real and is treatable.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • A heavy feeling in your arms or legs
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Cravings for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Concentration difficulties

Treatments for SAD

If you have had symptoms for a couple of winters, don't brush it off as just a case of the "winter blues". There is treatment available, and in some cases it is as simple as light therapy (also called phototherapy). In light therapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light box so that you're exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in our brain chemistry. Light therapy is usually the first treatment for SAD and generally starts working in two to four days. I know a few people who use light therapy and they say the difference it makes for them is incredible. While there is limited research on light therapy, it does appear to be effective for most people. If you are going to get a light box, know that they are not all created equal and the prices vary a great deal.

Other treatment for SAD can include medications and psychotherapy. In consultation with your doctor, you can determine what treatment is best for you.

When to See Your Doctor

You owe it to yourself and your family to take care of yourself! If you think you may have SAD, your doctor can help you with a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Your doctor can help determine if light therapy is an appropriate first step for you.

Even if you don’t think you have SAD, if you feel down for days (or weeks) at a time, please see your doctor. This is particularly important if you notice an inability to sleep, weight loss without trying, feeling very poorly about yourself, or thoughts about harming yourself or others.

Wishing you a healthy and happy winter!

For more from Anne, visit Maternity Corner.

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