Article by Marie Miguel
It happens every year around the same time. First, you get excited about the holidays coming up, then you start to feel a little lonely, and pretty soon you are full blown depressed and don’t know why or what to do about it. According to Mental Health America, approximately five percent of the population are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, about two million people in the UK experience some form of SAD between the months of November and March.
The Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The symptoms of SAD are similar to typical depression, but you only feel this way during the winter months. If you have felt sad or depressed for the past couple of winters but felt much better during the rest of the year, you probably have SAD. Although you should talk to a professional first, the common signs include:
- Sad or anxious feelings for no obvious reasons
- Loss of interest in your favorite activities
- Feeling lonely
- Eating more
- Gaining weight
- Sleeping more than usual but still feel exhausted
- Having a hard time making decisions
- Trouble concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Nobody is 100% sure what causes SAD but there are some experts who agree that some of the causes may be:
- Lack of sunlight
- Hormonal changes
- Imbalance in brain chemicals
- Circadian rhythm or biological clock imbalance
- Previous mental health condition
- Mental illness in the family
Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many therapists prescribe light therapy for patients with SAD as well as talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. In fact, light therapy is effective in close to 85% of those who are diagnosed with the disorder. Light therapy suppresses the brain’s release of melatonin because the increased melatonin may be the cause of your depression. This is a simple treatment and can be done at home by sitting in bright light for up to four hours per day. It is usually about 10 times the brightness of common household lights and can show dramatic improvements right away.
However, light therapy does not work for everyone. Those who do not get relief from light therapy are usually treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy) or cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be done with online therapy from home. This is beneficial to many people because getting out during the winter months can be difficult, especially if you live in an area where you experience a lot of snow and freezing weather.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is similar to psychotherapy in that you are basically talking to a therapist, which you can do from home, but you talk about how your emotions, thoughts, and feelings are affecting your mood. By helping you to see that changing your thought pattern will help your mood, you are able to retrain your brain, so you feel happier.
How Online Therapy Can Help Seasonal Affective Disorder
No matter what the cause, online therapy can help. With the use of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can communicate with a licensed professional who is experienced in diagnosing and treating SAD as well as other mental health conditions. Being able to talk to a therapist from home is beneficial for many reasons. First of all, it is easier. You don’t have to go anywhere. You can do it online from the comfort of your own home. Secondly, it is more private. You don’t have to go out and sit in an office with a bunch of other people. And finally, it is more affordable because the therapist passes their savings on to you. They save money by working from home and you benefit from that as well. So, online therapy is a win-win-win situation for everyone.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.