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23 Lenox Pointe Northeast
Atlanta, GA, 30324
United States

Mental Health Awareness 2007

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: Seasonal Affective Disorder

As many of us know the turn of the seasons can bring many changes, the weather, the foliage and sometimes our emotions. As summer ends and fall gets into full swing, many people notice a co-occurring change in their moods. While for some people the change in mood may be subtle, the mood changes can be more pronounced for others. Mental health professionals have become educated more and more about the prevalence of a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder affects many people and begins typically in late fall and early winter lasting until spring. The culprit- the decrease in amount of exposure to daylight which can affect our circadian rythmn. Prevalence rates of SAD vary, but it is thought to occur more in northern latitudes and vary by ethnic group. SAD occurs more commonly in women and in people who have a relative with depression or substance abuse.

Many common symptoms of SAD mimic depression:
Increased appetite
Decreased energy
Increased hopelessness
Increased sadness
Increased tearfulness
Increased suicidal thoughts
Increased desire to sleep
Increased negative thinking
Increased isolation
Decreased sexual interest
Decreased interest in hobbies/ pleasurable activities

It is important to understand the symptoms of SAD to get the most effective treatment. Some of the standard treatments for depression can be effective; such as, cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. It is important that if the symptoms begin to impair functioning in your daily life, you seek help from a social worker. To help assess SAD, you can complete the on-line self- assessment at www.cet.org.

For mild cases of SAD, light therapy technology is becoming more sophisticated and convenient to use; for example, they now have glasses that emit the correct light frequency that individuals can wear around the house while getting ready every day to get increased light exposure and treat symptoms of SAD. If you are looking for light therapy, there are certain specifications to look for: lux, length of exposure, and time of exposure. A lux of 10,000 for 30-minutes seems to be the most effective for use in the morning for treating symptoms of SAD. Another benefit is that there are few reported side effects of light therapy.

Awareness to our mental health can greatly improve the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us. It is imperative that we raise awareness to this mental health condition and end needless emotional suffering. If you have any questions or would like to be evaluated for SAD, you can call Dr. Tara Arnold at 404-964-6629.