Updated: June 4, 2015

SAD: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Have you ever noticed that during wintertime people just don't seem as happy? You see far more people walking around looking angry and or depressed. In contrast, during Spring and Summer, you are far more likely to see people walking with a spring in their step. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that hits many people when the dark days of winter arrive. In fact, most people with this problem feel normal throughout the year, but when it gets to be the winter months they get depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder is often abbreviated to just 'SAD'. More women then men have SAD by a 3:1 ratio, and it often begins in adolescence. There also has been shown to be a genetic component. People who live far north or south of the equator are also more likely to experience symptoms related to SAD. Before you are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, your symptoms will be compared to those in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Common treatments for SAD include bright light therapy, ionized air, and administration of dawn simulation therapy. Sometimes people even take antidepressants during the winter months to deal with their Seasonal Affective Disorder. Melatonin has also been shown to be beneficial in fighting SAD. In this guide, we will delve deeper into Seasonal Affective Disorder and learn how to best deal with it (including a look at SAD lights).



Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms - SAD Symptoms

So what are the Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms? People with this problem may experience any or all of the following: clinical depression decreased appetite, weight loss, decreased sex drive and social withdrawal. Sometimes people with Seasonal Affective Disorder even have thoughts of suicide. (If you have suicidal thoughts, always seek help from a professional immediately.) So what causes SAD? There are a variety of causes for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and they may vary from person to person. Mainly, issues with the biological clock and circadian rhythms can cause SAD. People's internal clock can be affected by lack of sunlight. When your circadian rhythm gets out of whack, it can cause depression. The change into the winter season can also impact the melatonin in the body. Of course, there is also a significant drop in serotonin levels caused by reduced sunlight. When our serotonin levels drop, it can cause depression.

Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are a variety of treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and not every treatment works for everyone. When doctors find out that their patients have SAD, they will often prescribe antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and Prozac. Psychotherapy has also been shown to be effective. However, many people prefer to try natural treatments for treating their Seasonal Affective Disorder. Natural methods that have been shown to be effective with this problem include exercise, improved diet, and getting natural light whenever possible. For example, many find that simply taking a walk every day or keeping more windows open on sunny days helps their mood. Select supplements including St Johns Wort, SAMe and Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to be effective in treating SAD. Meditation and guided imagery are also suggested.

Light Therapy Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder - Best SAD Lights

A very common treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is Light Therapy. For the light therapy treatment, you would just sit close to a light therapy box or light therapy box each day with your eyes open. One great thing about this type of treatment, is that unlike prescription drugs, it has few side effects. One popular light for SAD is the Verilux Natural Spectrum HappyLite. This product comes in two sizes, The Verilux Natural Spectrum HappyLite Mini Ultra which sells for about $72 on Amazon, and the larger sized Verilux HappyLite Deluxe Sunshine Simulator, which sells for about $189. Most users prefer the larger model just because it is bigger and brighter and you don't feel the need to jam your face right up against it.

Another popular treatment for SAD is Uplift Technologies Day-Light 10,000 Lux SAD Lamp. It has a 4.5 star rating with 100 reviews on Amazon and sells for $136. This product is 100% UV-filtered for safety, and fits conveniently into standard carry-on luggage. Everyone who reviewed this product on Amazon.com loved the way this device works. People also like the look of the Uplift Technologies SAD Lamp, and solid build of the machine. Many people ended up choosing this particular product because it was the one that they had this suggested to them by their Doctor. Even one pregnant woman who reviewed this product had it recommended by her Doctor to treat even non-seasonal types of depression that accompany pregnancy. So apparently, Light Therapy can be effective at treating depression even if it isn't caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Other Light Therapy Products: Dawn Simulators and Ion Therapy
Light Therapy Lamps are also available to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. For $132, you can get NatureBright PER3 Deluxe Light Therapy Lamp, which also functions as an alarm clock and a reading lamp. This product is a bit different as it also includes a dawn and dusk simulator. The lamp has a special technology that guides people into waking and sleep. The NatureBright PER3 Light Therapy Lamp has been shown to be useful for insomnia and fitful sleep. Many doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have labeled this particular light therapy lamp as "best of breed." In general, most people who reviewed this product strongly felt it worked. There were some complaints about the design and that it felt flimsy. NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp is another way of treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. This product applies both Light Therapy treatment as well as negative ion therapy. This lamp, which sells for $118, comes recommended by Columbia Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatry Institute. The 10,000-lux light therapy and negative ion therapy reportedly can improve the psychological wellbeing of people with SAD in just a few days. What are negative ions and how can they help Seasonal Affective Disorder? Negative ions are electron-sized particles that are found in environments like beaches and waterfalls. Have you ever felt your mood improve when you go to the ocean? If so, that is because of the uplifting impact that the ions have on you. We surveyed reviews from people with Seasonal Affective Disorder who tried the NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp. In general people were thrilled with the product. One reviewer even called it a miracle. The only complaints were that some people didn't like the smell of the ionizer. Other people said that it reminded them of the air after a rainstorm. To some people, this smell was pleasant, while others did not enjoy it.