What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

“Punxsutawney Phil,” the infamous groundhog from Pennsylvania did not see his shadow for 2013!  So as the tradition goes since the early 1800s, an early spring is just around the corner.  The winter of 2012-13 has been pesky for many people across the nation.  For many of us, the unpredictable days of rain, sleet, and snow have played havoc on our emotions.  I admit I was a skeptic when I first heard about the syndrome “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. However, after this long dismal winter…I am a believer!

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorders

The reduced amount of sunlight in the fall and winter months disrupts the internal clock of people that are affected by SAD. In addition, there is a family link to the disorder. Interestingly, the farther you live from the equator the higher the risk.  A research study completed on SAD in the  90’s  (Rosen 1990) confirms  that the lowest SAD rate was 1.4 % in  Florida compared to 12.5% in New York.

Seniors’ Symptoms Often Mimic Traditional Depression

The senior population is especially vulnerable to this form of depression.  Often, seniors who are homebound during  the long winter days with the lack of natural sunlight can be prone to the disorder.  SAD can actually occur anytime during the year.   However, it usually rears its ugly head between the fall and winter months.  Interestingly, women are more prone to SAD than men;  although, men exhibit more intense symptoms. The symptoms of SAD often mimic traditional depression.  Symptoms may include :

Lethargy
Social withdrawal
Sadness
Change in eating habits
Oversleeping
Inability to focus and concentrate

How is Seasonal Affective Disorder treated?

Seniors and or caregivers that may be affected by SAD should seek professional medical treatment. Studies have shown that “bright light” therapy everyday can significantly improve SAD symptoms. Since natural sunlight is a problem in some areas, investing in a “light box” can be beneficial.  A physician may also prescribe an antidepressant for symptom management.

Are there any home remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There are some basic home remedies that may help with SAD.  These include eating a healthy diet and limiting alcohol and caffeine.  Engaging in a regular exercise routine to sync the internal body clock. It may also be beneficial to take a vitamin D supplement.  Recent studies have also shown that vitamin D in sufficient doses can actually mimic some sunlight exposure.  It is best to consult your physician to discuss the guidelines for taking vitamin D.  Finally, taking a nice sunny vacation. A natural sunlight vacation can be the perfect prescription for getting the sunlight exposure you need in just a few days.

What cities have the sunniest days?

The idea of taking a vacation can always lift the spirits with all types of depression.  For SAD sufferers, the sun shines 85% of the time in Phoenix and Las Vegas.  In addition, Sacramento, California, Los Angeles and Miami, Florida are also bright choices.  Although, Groundhog “Phil” predicts an early spring, the city of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania would not be a great destination for a SAD sufferer.

 
 
 

About the author

I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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