How ESAs Help with Seasonal Affective Disorder

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silhouette of person with seasonal affective disorder sad

Almost half a million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Women make up 75 % of this number. What is SAD and how can it be treated? Read on for more information about this mental health issue.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) usually starts in late fall or early winter. It typically ends by Spring or early Summer. The exact cause of SAD is not clear. However, mental health research points strongly at the fact that lower light levels have a big role to play.

Why Longer, Colder, Darker Days Cause Winter Depression

Exposure to sunlight stimulates the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a part of your brain that plays a role in regulating your circadian rhythms. In other words, your internal, 24-hour sleep-wake cycles.

In some areas more than others, there is a lot less sunlight during the winter months. These reduced light levels can disrupt your natural circadian rhythms, AKA your biological clock.

The result: Lower levels of serotonin (mood-regulating hormone) and increased levels of melatonin (sleep and mood-regulating hormone). Imbalances of serotonin and melatonin can lead to lethargy, feelings of weakness, persistent tiredness, lack of sex drive, overeating, and social withdrawal.

Are Seasonal Depression and the Winter Blues the Same?

The winter blues are very common. Many of us will experience a mood shift when days are colder, shorter, and darker. We will feel less energetic, and a bit gloomy. However, this won’t necessarily result in a mental health issue and affect our ability to enjoy life in the long term.

Seasonal depression is more than just the Winter Blues. If your feelings of lethargy and apathy start saturating all aspects of your life, you may have SAD. SAD is a form of major depression that recurs annually and is associated with the change of seasons.

woman with seasonal depression playing with esa dog

Signs of Depression: Common Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

SAD sufferers have many signs that are indicative of a major depressive disorder. These symptoms of SAD include:

  • Extreme fatigue and low energy levels.
  • Sleepiness and heavy limbs.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Loss of interest in usual activities.
  • Withdrawal from social activities.
  • Sadness, anxiety, and/or irritability.
  • Food cravings, especially carbohydrate cravings for easy-energy starchy foods, and weight gain.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are a few treatment options for SAD (seasonal affective disorder). And, most of them help to reduce depressive symptoms in a short space of time. Bottom line: seasonal affective disorder is a form of major depression. Therefore, anti-depressants are your go-to for medical treatment options.

To increase feel-good hormone dopamine levels, antidepressant medications such as Bupropion (or Wellbutrin) can help. To increase serotonin levels, your SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors) are used. For example, antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), or tramadol (Ultram) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

Other treatment for SAD options include psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.

How an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Can Help Beat SAD!

Pet owners across the world will attest to the fact that their pets can cheer them up and make life more joyful. Our furry friends have an enormous effect on our brain’s chemistry. Just a simple daily interaction with them can improve brain chemistry.

There are many other ways in which an emotional support animal (ESA) can help to beat the Winter Blues. Time spent playing with, petting, and holding your ESA leads to an increase in serotonin and oxytocin levels.

Having an ESA will mean that you will never feel alone. Your faithful, loyal hound is by your side through thick and thin.

They’ll Get You Out and About! 

Rain or shine, your pooch needs to get out for a walk and a play. Being forced to get out and about will help to expose you to more natural light. The fresh air and exercise will also help to boost energy levels and levels of feel-good hormones.

ESAs can help us to have a better night’s sleep. Whether it is their affectionate cuddles or just knowing that there is another living being in the house with you.

woman with sad disorder playing with emotional support cat

All You Need is an ESA Letter

Owning an emotional support animal can be a wonderful way to reduce your symptoms of depression. Does your current accommodation not allow pets? An ESA letter can make it possible for you to have a companion animal just about anywhere. In addition, with an ESA letter, your furry friend can travel with you on most airlines free of charge.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder Light Therapy

Shine a light on your Winter depression, literally, if your lifestyle makes it difficult for you to get enough sunlight. For example, long working hours and/or commutes. Or, say you live in an area where the sun just isn’t around for very long at certain times of the year. Think about getting a light therapy lamp!

When it comes to light exposure, your brain doesn’t discern between artificial light and natural sunlight. Light therapy works with the premise of being exposed to enough light in the day. Light boxes produce a bright white light, which is measured in lux, to mirror the advantageous effects of time spent exposed to sunlight.

Getting a Seasonal Affective Disorder Lamp is a Good Idea

Below we list a few of our favorite light therapy boxes available online. Here’s some advice for making the most of using a light therapy box:

Aim for 30 minutes of light exposure per day. It doesn’t have to be in one sitting. For example, you could break the 30 minutes up into three 10-minute sessions.

Don’t stare directly at the light. Keep the light box in front or to the side of you at a distance specified by the manufacturer.

When to Use Your Light Box

To get a good start to your day, try to get some light box time in the morning. In other words, before 10:00 am.

The Verilux HappyLight delivers up to 10 000 lux in three adjustable settings. The sleek and modern tablet-like design is easy to carry around with you.

The Miroco LED Bright White Therapy Light has 3 brightness settings. In addition, it comes with an automatic timer to set the light’s duration at 10-minute intervals for 10 – 60 minutes.

The unique shell-shape of the Miroco UV-Free 10 000 Lux LED therapy light makes it a striking focal point in your home. This therapy light also boasts three brightness settings and a memory function.

Rated 4.50/5.00
Verilux HappyLight VT31 Lumi
HappyLight Lumi LED light therapy lamp brings customizable light therapy right to your fingertips. Our unique Optix Glare Control lens eliminates uncomfortable glare and hot spots while providing an even distribution of light.
Buy on Amazon!
Rated 4.00/5.00
Light Therapy Lamp
UV-Free Light Therapy Light: Emulating the energizing power of a bright sunny day, the lamp delivers the medically recommended 10,000Lux for effective light therapy Elevates Your Mood: Improved concentration will affect your life positively and helps fight symptoms associated with jet lag, work shift, and winter blues
Buy on Amazon!
Rated 4.00/5.00
Miroco Light Therapy Lamp
Sleek & Modern Shell Design: Its unique shell shape and 6500K color temperature make it not only a light therapy product, but also an attractive focus in your home Safe & UV-Free LEDs: Light intensity measured in lux should be 10,000 to mimic a bright sunny day. It delivers natural light that lifts your mood, enhance focus
Buy on Amazon!

happy man lying down with his emotional support animal

Depression is Real! CertaPet Can Help!

At Certapet, we understand that owning a pet can have a wonderfully positive impact on one’s mental and emotional health. Take the Certapet 5-minute pre-screening questionnaire to see whether you could qualify to own an ESA. Soon afterward, you will be connected to a licensed mental health professional who will issue your ESA letter if you qualify!

Common Questions About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Is seasonal affective disorder a depressive disorder?

Is light therapy an effective treatment for the SAD form of depression?

Does a lack of sunlight cause seasonal affective disorder?

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