The condition of fibromyalgia is an extremely debilitating disorder.
It is characterized by many symptoms, from chronic fatigue to widespread pain and can really wreak havoc on both your physical and your mental well-being.
Additionally, individuals suffering from fibromyalgia are likely to develop other illnesses, including seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
This typically comes on during the fall and winter months, when there is less sunlight.
It can have an effect on your sleep schedule, your mood, and even your energy levels. If you’re already suffering from fibromyalgia, it can cause your symptoms to become worse.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Explained
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a disorder that is related to mood and is characterized by feelings of fatigue and depression.
It is considered to be one of the major types of depression and is linked to the changing of the seasons.
Typically, seasonal affective disorder will set in during the fall and winter months and will continue through the winter.
The symptoms will only go away when the seasons change, during the spring. Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can range from very mild to extremely severe, becoming debilitating in some cases.
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
This condition is caused due to the change in the number of daylight hours during the fall and winter months.
Your body operates by the circadian rhythm- which is your internal clock that is based upon the rising and the setting of the sun.
Since there are fewer hours of sunlight during the winter months, it can be easy for your internal clock to get thrown off balance, making it much more difficult to carry out normal daily routines.
Additionally, seasonal affective disorder has been linked to a chemical imbalance resulting in the reduction in the number of daylight hours.
Melatonin, a natural chemical in your brain that also determines your mood, is produced more when it’s dark outside.
Therefore, you have more melatonin in your brain during fall and winter months- which can result in depression.
Anyone Can Be Affected By Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder knows no boundaries, which means that anyone can come down with it. It is thought that 10 to 20 percent of Americans are considered to have some form of seasonal affective disorder.
However, as with most conditions, it is typically much more common among women.
In fact, around 70 to 80 percent of individuals suffering with seasonal affective disorder are women.
This condition typically begins somewhere in a person’s 20s to 30s.
Individuals living in the Northern Hemisphere are much more likely to develop seasonal affective disorder and around half of all individuals suffering from seasonal affective disorder have a family history of psychiatric illnesses.
Common Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
You should be aware that symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can range from mild to severe. Following is a list of the most common symptoms of this condition:
- A decrease in energy levels
- Increased fatigue
- Sleep problems, mainly sleeping too much
- Carb/sugar cravings
- Loss of sexual desire
- Gaining weight
What is Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder
Around ten percent of individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder also have symptoms of what is known as reverse seasonal affective disorder.
This particular seasonal affective disorder actually occurs in the spring and summer months instead of fall and winter.
The symptoms are very similar- including fatigue and depression. However, these individuals have a decrease in their appetite and they lose weight.
It is possible for an individual to experience both disorders in the same year.
Fibromyalgia and Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, you must make sure that you’re aware of the symptoms of this condition.
This is due to the fact that individuals suffering from fibromyalgia are actually at an increased risk for developing this condition than those who are healthy.
In fact, over 50 percent of individuals suffering from fibromyalgia actually report experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during the winter months.
This can cause complications with fibromyalgia, such as:
- An increase in stiffness of muscles
- An increase in anxiety
- An increase in sleep disturbances
Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Though it may seem like all hope is lost, the truth is that there are lots of treatments that have proven to be effective at helping to reduce the signs and symptoms of the condition of seasonal affective disorder.
Often, these treatments will be used together in order to achieve the best results:
The very first line of treatment for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. With this therapy, bright fluorescent lights are used to help slow down or stop the brain’s production of melatonin, which helps with the symptoms of depression.
If you’re dealing with seasonal affective disorder, it is suggested that you get a light box, which is a box that is filled with light bulbs, and sit in front of it for thirty minutes to an hour every day.
Of course, you can do other activities while you’re sitting there such as sewing, reading, knitting or other activities that you can sit still with.
It has been said that somewhere between fifty to eighty percent of individuals who use light therapy to treat their seasonal affective disorder report a marked improvement in their symptoms.
Another common treatment for seasonal affective disorder is antidepressants. These can help to reduce the anxiety and the depression that individuals with seasonal affective disorder experience.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, called SSRIs, are the common choice to help alleviate these symptoms without causing an increase in weight gain or fatigue.
Some of the common antidepressants used for seasonal affective disorder include Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.