Each year, people fall victim to seasonal depression. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, begins in late fall and usually subsides with the coming of spring. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD.
Who is at risk?
Believe it or not, women are four times more likely to experience SAD than men, with symptoms beginning around age 20.
When does one see a doctor for SAD?
There are a variety of clues that may point to a diagnosis:
- A change in appetite
- Weight gain
- A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- A tendency to oversleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased sensitivity to social rejection
How do experts suggest keeping symptoms at bay?
Here’s what Tara Nayak, ND, a naturopathic physician practicing in Philadelphia, tells BlackDoctor.org about simple ways to soothe seasonal depression.
1. Check your vitamin D status and get your levels replete if they are low. You’d be surprised at how many people are deficient in this essential vitamin that really acts more as a hormone. Low vitamin D levels have been scientifically linked to seasonal depression. These same studies showed that taking high doses of vitamin D improved symptoms. This is especially relevant because some studies suggest that people of African descent are more likely to have low vitamin D. In the winter, we are more likely to have low vitamin D because we are out in the sunlight less. Sunlight is the first step in our body’s process of making its own vitamin D. You can also try to eat foods that have vitamin D, such as mushrooms, however it is much harder for our body to process and use this form. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, you should choose the active form of the vitamin known as D3.
2. Nature cure! Spending more time outside in the sunlight improves Vitamin D status but also gets your body moving! Exercise is one of the safest, easiest relievers of anxiety and depression. It is the best way to help your body break down stress hormones such as adrenaline (epinephrine/norepinephrine). Although it may be hard to get a routine started, once people start exercising they notice the difference almost immediately.