Dealing With Seasonal Depression
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects many people during the fall and winter months. Seasonal depression may be more common in cold climates, but the condition isn’t exclusive to these areas. After the high energy of the holiday season, many people experience a winter slump that affects moods, motivation, and productivity. Here’s how vitamin D and supplements can help decrease the symptoms of SAD.
Signs and symptoms
About 5% of adults in the US deal with SAD each year. Commonly, symptoms last for close to half the year. Besides feeling sad or depressed, the disorder can also cause sleep changes, changes in appetite, a loss of interest in activities, and trouble concentrating. SAD can affect people of all ages, but, typically, symptoms start between the ages of 18-30.
Typically, treatment for SAD will use 1 of 4 options: medication, psychotherapy, light therapy, or vitamin D. A healthcare provider may prescribe an antidepressant or recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both of these options are highly effective for treating depression, whether the condition is seasonal or not. Light therapy has been used since the 1980s to help replace the diminished sunshine in the fall and winter months.
How vitamin D can help
Having a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of SAD. Typically, people are vitamin D-deficient because of a lack of sunlight exposure or insufficient dietary intake of the nutrient. Many people experience significant mood-boosting benefits from taking a daily vitamin D supplement. Because too much vitamin D can have adverse effects, always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a vitamin D regimen.
Additional supplements to try
Some additional supplements can help with symptoms of depression. For example, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical the body produces from tryptophan. People can boost 5-HTP by consuming foods that are high in tryptophan, such as pumpkins, turkey, chicken, seaweed, sunflower seeds, and potatoes. In the absence of these foods, some people can benefit from a 5-HTP supplement. The chemical can also decrease symptoms of sleep disorders, premenstrual syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease.
What to do when you’re SAD
Seasonal depression is common and nothing to feel shame about. Any time someone is experiencing persistent negative thoughts or feelings, lack of energy, or decreased moods, experts recommend seeing a healthcare provider. A doctor can provide treatment options to help people get back to feeling better.