Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer (NIMH, 2016).
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm).The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels.A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels.The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
At The Better Brain Center, we recognize the symptoms of SAD and integrate therapy components into the neurofeedback sessions. For example, while doing a neurofeedback session, which involves sitting in front of a computer screen while enjoying a game or movie while your brain is actively engaged in re-training itself to work more efficiently, we would also use a light box to combat that aspect of the depression. In the brain, we may recognize an increase in slow wave activity in the frontal lobes, which may contribute to feeling sluggish and unmotivated increasing those feelings of depression and having low energy. The neurofeedback protocols would focus on regulating different amplitudes that are dysregulated, while the light therapy combats the diminished sunshine.
At The Better Brain Center, we try to focus on the whole individual and utilize different types of treatments specifically designed for the client.