Other than physical symptoms like widespread pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia patients are also to vulnerable psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs in fibromyalgia sufferers.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that happens only at certain times of the year. The most common of trigger of this condition is often the onset of fall and winter season. The condition is characterized by recurrent episodes of oversleeping, depression and constant cravings. Hence, it can lead to overeating, weight gain and obesity. Similar to other psychological disorders, SAD can vary in severity. The most extreme cases are totally debilitating.
How Does SAD Affect Fibromyalgia?
Experts estimated that SAD affects up to 6 percent of the general population. An additional 10 to 20 percent suffer from mild symptoms. The illness is often more common in women than men. In fact, almost 80 percent of the SAD diagnoses are female. Moreover, those who are from the Northern Hemisphere and those with family history of psychiatric illnesses are more prone to SAD.
SAD is unfortunately more common to those who have fibromyalgia. In fact, more than 50 percent of fibromyalgia sufferers have complained of symptoms relating to SAD. This usually occurs during the winter season. Moreover, SAD can complicate some fibromyalgia symptoms, including the following:
- Increased anxiety.
- Intense muscle stiffness.
- Frequently disturbed sleep.
How to Diagnosis and Treat SAD
If you believe that you are suffering from SAD, you should be watchful for any of these symptoms which intensify during certain times of the year:
- Decreased energy
- Sleep disorder, most especially excessive sleeping.
- Constant cravings of sugary food and carbohydrates.
- Weight gain
- Loss of libido
For those diagnosed with SAD, there are certain treatments available. Most doctors would recommend patients to undergo light therapy. This is in fact the first line of treatment for most of the SAD cases.
It is believed that the decrease exposure to light in the winter months leads to SAD. Therefore, in order to counter this, patients sit through light therapy where bright lights are directed at them. This takes 30 to 60 minutes each day. Patients can go on doing other activities like reading or simply relaxing while being exposed to the light. Almost 80 percent of those who have undergone light therapy reported a dramatic improvement on their SAD symptoms.