Seasonal Affective Disorder

Overview

This is a form of depression that begins in autumn or early winter and generally lasts for 5-7 months until the beginning of spring. The loss of sunshine triggers chemical changes in the brain that result in depression. The serotonin production is most predominantly affected. This condition affects as many as 35 million Americans. It occurs most commonly in children, adolescents, and women (75% are women, and more often after 30 years of age).

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Symptoms

  • Lack of energy
  • Increased desire to sleep
  • Increased appetite (with resultant weight gain)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal - difficulty in relationships and lack of sexual desire.
  • Increased incidence of PMS
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Management Plan

  • Bright light therapy (Approximately 60% of those suffering respond to this type of management)
  • Medication - Anti-depressants may work such as Prozac. This medication may work as serotonin dysregulation is at the core of this disorder. (Usually takes about 4-6 weeks to become effective)

Alternative Managements

  • 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan - Helpful if low levels of Serotonin are found. Also increases response to light therapy. (A good source is whey protein that also boost immune function, protects against free radicals, and boosts cellular glutathione levels)
  • B-vitamins - necessary to convert Tryptophan to Serotonin
  • Vitamin D3 - Since production is markedly diminished in the winter months and this vitamin-hormone enhances mood
  • Regular exercise
  • Diet - Low fat; avoid too much red meat and protein as well as minimize caffeine consumption
  • Take winter vacations to sunny destinations when possible

Overall, this common disorder can be managed using the above management options. If conditions continue Dr.Allibone can look at other possible causes based on each individual patient and therefore other options could be explored.

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If we fill our hours with regrets of yesterday and with worries of tomorrow, we have no today in which to enjoy our existence. Seize the day, and take control of your health and life. How you are going to live those tomorrows will depend on how you act and choose today. - George Allibone M.D.