Monday, October 12, 2009

As fall approaches, seasonal affective disorder may be one issue to look out for

October 10th, 2009

Mental Illness Awareness Week and What You Should Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Photo by: MarkBarky, Flikr, Creative CommonsToday marks the last day of Mental Illness Awareness Week, first recognized by Congress in 1990. The first week of October has since been used to raise awareness about mental health issues. As fall approaches, seasonal affective disorder may be one issue to look out for.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common mood disorder that occurs in autumn and winter. The reduced sunlight during these months causes the body to fall out of its natural rhythm. People with the disorder may feel drained, depressed, or lack interest in normal activity, among other symptoms.
Not to worry, though. These five tips may help you lose those winter blues:
  • Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes of exercise is enough to flood the brain with endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Cutting out excess carbohydrates and saturated fats and replacing them with healthier foods can boost your metabolism and give you more energy.
  • Get plenty of sunlight. Most physicians recommend getting at least 30 minutes of sunlight to boost brain chemistry. If sunlight is scarce, you might consider a form of light therapy.
  • Consult your physician. There are lots of health conditions with similar symptoms as sad. SAD can be mistaken as hypothyroidism, mononucleosis, or another mental disorder.
  • Consider medication. For more severe cases of SAD, medication may be needed to balance the brain’s chemical levels. Talk to your doctor about different medications and other treatment options.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), as many as 26 percent of adults and 10 percent of children living in the U.S. are directly affected by a mental health disorder every year. Mental illness affects everyone, but it doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your life. Taking extra steps toward positive mental health can keep a smile on your face this season.

Get more information about symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or find resources on how to make Mental Illness Awareness Week recognized in your community.

No comments: