What’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that primarily affects people during the fall and winter months when there is less daylight, particularly in locations farther from the equator. This lack of light can disturb the internal clock and may lead to feelings of depression. The change in seasons can also influence the body’s melatonin and serotonin — natural substances that play a role in sleep timing and mood. When combined, these factors may lead to SAD.
More than just feeling blue or lacking energy on cold winter days, SAD involves persistent, pervasive symptoms of depression. Those symptoms may include feeling sad, angry or easily irritable most of the day nearly every day; lack of interest in activities once enjoyed; difficulty concentrating; persistent tiredness; lack of energy; and, in some cases, feeling that life isn’t worth living or having suicidal thoughts.
People with SAD often feel tired and sleep more than usual. They also tend to crave carbohydrates and eat more, which often causes weight gain. Symptoms may get worse as winter progresses.
What Can I Do?
There are many natural and clinical ways to combat SAD. Psychotherapy has been found to be effective. The treatment that has shown the most success for prevention and treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for SAD, or CBT-SAD.
There are also many self-care steps you can take all year long that may help reduce your risk. These include getting regular exercise, maintaining healthy sleep habits including a predictable sleep/wake cycle, eating a healthy diet and limiting the amount of sugary foods you consume.
Going outside on sunny days can also make a difference. When the sun reflects off the snowy ground, clear days can be brilliantly bright. Exposure to that natural sunlight can help ease symptoms.
If you’ve been diagnosed with SAD in the past or you suspect you have it, talk to your doctor about prevention and treatment options. Even if it can’t always be prevented, there are treatments available that can help you successfully manage your symptoms. And because this condition is seasonal, symptoms will begin to fade as daylight lengthens in the spring.
Can CBD Help?
Low serotonin levels are likely connected to depression. CBD doesn’t necessarily boost serotonin levels, but it may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s already in your system.
A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on these receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
A more recent 2018 review of existing studies concluded that CBD has anti-stress effects, which may reduce depression related to stress.
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