Do you start feeling sad when the clocks go back? What you may be expressing is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Not surprisingly, the acronym for it is SAD. Basically, SAD is a type of depression that occurs as the seasons change from summer to fall, continuing through the winter. SAD can also occur during spring and early summer, but it’s less common. People who experience SAD feel moody and have less energy.
The depression associated with SAD generally improves when spring arrives. While some may consider SAD the “winter blues,” it’s more distressing than that if you experience it. SAD can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities and can feel overwhelming.
About five percent of U.S. adults experience SAD, and it’s more common among women than men. (To be clinically diagnosed with SAD, you must have the symptoms during specific seasons for at least two consecutive years, although not everyone with the condition has symptoms every year. ) SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that occurs because of shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter. It’s thought that the change in seasons throws off a person’s circadian rhythm that causes them to be out of sync with their usual routine.
In addition to feeling depressed, even suicidal, and having low energy, other symptoms of SAD include:
- Lack of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Weight or appetite changes
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep issues: oversleeping with winter-related SAD; insomnia with summer-pattern SAD
Among the most common treatments for SAD are:
Medications: SAD is associated with disturbances in serotonin activity, similar to other types of depression. Treatment for SAD symptoms can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are antidepressants. They can significantly enhance patients' moods. Also, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved bupropion, which is another type of antidepressant. An extended-release form of bupropion can prevent the recurrence of seasonal major depressive episodes when taken daily from the fall until the early spring.
Light therapy: Light therapy is a common treatment for SAD. The patient sits in front of a light therapy box that emits a very bright light (and filters out harmful ultraviolet rays). Treatment usually requires 20 minutes or more per day during the winter months, typically first thing in the morning. Most people see some improvements from light therapy within one or two weeks of beginning treatment.
Vitamin D: Many people who have SAD often have deficiencies of Vitamin D. However, there have been mixed results in studies on Vitamin D and SAD. Some studies indicate it helps, and others find no improvement.
Talk therapy: Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that aims to help people experiencing difficult situations. It focuses on replacing negative thoughts, especially ones associated with winter, with more positive thoughts. Another type of CBT for SAD encourages people to plan pleasant activities – indoors and outdoors - to combat the lack of interest they generally feel during winter.
SAD and CBD
Another emerging option for SAD is the use of CBD products to address symptoms of the problem, most notably anxiety and insomnia or poor-quality sleep. A 2011 study found that CBD was able to reduce Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control patients and treatment-naïve anxious patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in the speech performance of control patients and significantly decreased alert levels in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels than the control group.
Furthermore, some research on CBD and sleep indicates that CBD may interact with specific receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to affect the sleep/wake cycle. The ECS is a vital molecular system made up of neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between neurons, which transmit nerve impulses. CBD interacts with these ECS receptors to regulate sleep, appetite, mood, immune function, and pain. A 2016 case study showed the positive results of using CBD oil to treat a child who had insomnia and pediatric anxiety due to posttraumatic stress disorder. 
Lab+Blends CBD products and SAD
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