Mental Health In The Winter Months: Tips About Seasonal Affective Disorder

The winter blues may not seem like such a big deal, but for some people the cold weather and short days of winter pose a constant problem. The proper name for ongoing seasonal depression is seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Some people suffer from SAD for months on end, particularly in areas where sunny days are limited in fall and winter months. Anyone suffering from SAD living in the northeast should know there are New Jersey Mental Health centers that help people deal with seasonal affective disorder specifically.

Causes of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is caused by a lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months, though a small percentage of SAD sufferers experience symptoms with the onset of summer. Decreased sunlight can lead to a disruption of one's circadian rhythms, which in turn interferes with sleep patterns. It may also lower serotonin and melatonin levels in the body, which can result in mood swings, changes in appetite, and even depression. Other symptoms of SAD include anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, oversleeping, weight gain, and trouble concentrating.

Managing SAD and Its Symptoms

Seeing a specialist in mental health in New Jersey, or wherever the SAD sufferer happens to live, is a good first step towards managing this disorder. SAD sufferers should know the practitioner providing care for their mental health in New Jersey or elsewhere may prescribe medication to treat their symptoms. Those dealing with depression should be sure to stick with their course of treatment to combat the effects of SAD.

Since a lack of sunlight is typically at the root of the problem, exposing the body to additional light throughout the fall and winter can make quite a difference. A simple solution is to keep blinds and curtains open during daylight hours, and to spend time outside on sunny days. Sunless days can be made brighter with a sun lamp designed especially for counteracting the effects of SAD. People with SAD far from the equator often break up the winter by vacationing in a warm, sunny location to make up for some of the sun they are missing. As with any form of depression, the symptoms of SAD can be lessened with regular exercise and a healthy diet as well.

There is a range of alternative remedies recommended for SAD. St. John's wort is often used for depression in general and may work for people with SAD in particular. Other supplements, like SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), are supposed to help replace the chemicals that naturally decrease during the short days of winter. Those considering treating SAD this way should check with their health care provider first.

Finding Mental Health Resources

Anyone who thinks they may be suffering from SAD should contact a mental health care provider right away. Residents of NJ should be able to find a New Jersey Mental Health facility that can help SAD sufferers make positive and effective changes in their lives.

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