Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known by the acronym SAD, is a type of mental health disorder that primarily affects sufferers in the fall and winter months. SAD is a type of depression that causes people to feel down, lethargic, and sometimes hopeless during the year’s coldest and darkest seasons. People living furthest from the equator, where the nights are long and the days are short during the winter, are those most seriously affected by the disorder. While experiencing SAD can feel overwhelming, it is important to remember that the right diagnosis and treatment from medical professionals can bring relief to the debilitating condition. There is hope.

A proper diagnosis is the first step when deciding on a treatment path, in consultation with a medical or psychological professional, for SAD. Therefore, it is essential to know the symptoms of SAD and how they might manifest in people. Some of the most serious symptoms include feeling hopeless most of the time, feeling depressed much of the day, having difficulty concentrating, and losing all interest in once-enjoyable activities. Additional signs to be aware of are feeling tired all the time, oversleeping, craving carbohydrates and gaining weight, and a general sense of low energy that will not disappear, despite your best efforts. Any or all of these symptoms can be indicators that a person has SAD, and they should not be ignored or minimized.

Once a diagnosis of SAD is confirmed, treatment can commence. Fortunately, there are many promising avenues to provide relief from SAD. Since SAD may be caused by a lack of sunlight, phototherapy is often used in treatment. With phototherapy, the patient sits a few feet away from a lightbox for a specified amount of time each morning and absorbs the light. Phototherapy is often an effective mode of treatment, and sufferers feel better in a matter of days. In other cases, patients may need to be prescribed antidepressants to relieve serious symptoms; it may take several weeks or months for the medicine to become effective. Alternative therapies such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, and art/music therapy have also been utilized to provide relief from SAD. Physical activity can help, too. It is important to continue to try different treatments until a solution is found that offers respite from SAD. It might take some time, but you are worth feeling better.

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