Research Reveals Low Serotonin Causes SAD

Scientists at The University of Copenhagen have revealed that they’re pretty confident they know what the cause of seasonal affective disorder is and why it affects some people and not others.

Research was conducted on 34 participants who volunteered to have brain scans performed. Although thirty-four people isn’t very many, the consistency of findings in 11 of them brought more certainty. 24 of the people did not suffer from seasonal depression while the other 11 did. This way the scientists could study the brain scans and see what was normal compared to what was not in the subjects who have SAD.

The findings were that in the eleven people scanned there was an increased production of a transporter protein that depletes serotonin. A serotonin transporter (SERT) moves serotonin back into nerve cells where it becomes inactive. As a result, the higher the SERT in patients the lower their serotonin levels.

The difference between people who are not affected by SAD and those who are is that individuals who don’t experience depression during the winter have serotonin levels that remain at a normal level. Individuals who have SAD may have a higher SERT (transport of serotonin back to an inactive state) which lowers the neurotransmitter.

What’s also important to note about this study is that it was designed to monitor activity in the brain throughout the year so that scientists could get a closer look during both summer and winter.

The major takeaway here is that the volunteers who had SAD experienced a major drop in serotonin during the winter months compared to others.

What Is The Circadian Rhythm?

The whole concept of the circadian rhythm is both equally exciting and fascinating. Basically stated; it’s the 24 hour cycle that the human body and any other biological process that can be found in plants and animals goes through.

The circadian clock as it is often times referred to dictates our sleep, eating, cognitive and behavioral patterns in a given time length. This natural rhythm is important to our health and well being on planet Earth, but having a healthy circadian rhythm is important to a quality life style.

Seasonal Affect Disorder for instance is thought to be caused by a lacking of sunlight during the later months of the year; which can lead to depression and a major change in mood.

Life operates on a schedule. Even when most people are sleeping in one part of the world, the sun is just rising in another part and people are entering the productive phase of the day. This natural process helps trigger when it’s time to sleep, eat, work or even play.

What’s very interesting about circadian rhythms is that although outside factors such as your environment can play a role; much of what controls your internal clock is based on genetics.

This system is brilliantly controlled by something called the “Master Clock” which is a complex set of nerve cells that are known as the suprachiasmatic nucleu. These cells sit in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is located slightly above where the optic nerves for the eyes reside.

The location of the master clock is very important to understand. It does have a connection to how light is processed by the brain. As a result, when the outside environment is darker, the suprachiasmatic nucleu tells the body to produce more melatonin; A hormone that contributes to sleep.

Likewise, being in a well lit environment will trigger the opposite effect. This is also why you can play an important role in your own circadian rhythm and develop a better schedule by keeping a consistent bed time, turning off the television when you go to sleep and making an effort to rise at the same time every morning.

The issue with something such as seasonal depression is that the days get shorter and the human body wants to go into a hibernation mode. This is problematic as people still need to continue about their daily lives as though it was any other time during the year.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders may also affect the circadian rhythm, by interrupting it’s natural pattern. One of the more common of these disorders is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which delays the actual point of falling asleep until very early in the morning. This causes the body to want to rest through the morning hours when people normally wake up.

The opposite is Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder which is where a person will fall asleep in the evening hours relatively early and then awakes early in the morning; such as 2AM – 4AM and cannot get back to sleep.

A healthy sleep cycle can be had, but does require work on the person’s part. Usually, with Delayed Sleep Disorder a patient will force themselves to climb into bed an hour or two earlier than normal. This does not come to fruition yet, but over several weeks the body may adjust and finally get the idea that it’s actually time to enter sleep mode.

With Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder a patient will force themselves to stay awake a little longer each night to adjust the sleep cycle. Finally, another method of treatment that may be incorporated is a careful dosage of light therapy to adjust the circadian rhythm.

Light Visors – Do They Actually Work?

A Light Visor is one type of device that you will find referenced in the interesting world of phototherapy, but probably not as peculiar a product as the Valkee ear buds. Visors that emit therapeutic light to ease the symptoms of depression have been on the market for quite a few years now. Essentially it’s a contraption that you wear attached to the bill of a hat which uses LEDs that shine towards your face to deliver light therapy.

They aren’t the most attractive looking gadget you will find, but the real question is whether or not they actually work or are something you should stay away from? Light visors are not nearly as popular a choice as using a SAD light box. In fact, in my research I found very few of these devices online, except for a handful on Amazon.

In 1993 a study was published from a clinical testing of light visors conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health. In this research, fifty-five patients were given the device to use. Some participants would use a rather low intensity visor that only emitted 400 LUX, while others were given another visor that put out 6000 LUX. The subjects were instructed to use the devices for 30 minutes every morning for a total of 1 week. The results were that 36% of the patients who used the low intensity visor felt a positive improvement in mood, while 56% of those who were given the 6000 LUX visor felt an improvement. The initial ruling was that it would appear that these visors both had a placebo affect on patients.

In another study carried out at the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, participants received two weeks of treatment. In this study, two devices were used. The first was a red light that only emitted 30 LUX, while other subjects used a white light that put out 600 LUX. 39% of those who used the red light and 41% of those who used the white light showed a positive response. This study was conducted in 1995 and once again showed that the effect seemed to be that of a placebo.

Although certainly more research is required to form a conclusion about the efficacy of light visors, so far it seems that they aren’t as successful of a choice when compared to therapy light boxes.

This could be do to the lower intensities of light put out by the visors and possibly because the surface area of the lights is so much smaller than light boxes. One reason some people may opt for using a visor is because of the portability of these devices. They are typically very light weight and you can use them while going about daily tasks around the house. They can, however, also be pricey. Light boxes can be expensive as well, but there are enough on the market to choose from to give you more range in cost. Plus light boxes are usually capable of delivering 10,000 LUX, which some people may require, where as visors are not capable of this.

Light visors are designed to be positioned so that the light doesn’t point directly at the eyes, which could be very bad. Instead the light is directed just above the eyes on the brow level. But again, considering the small area of light delivery, your best bet might be to investigate a light box instead.


My Boyfriend Is Depressed – How Can I Help?

When you’re in a relationship and something is off about the other person it can be very difficult to cope with. If your boyfriend has been depressed as of late, then you already know hard it is on you as well. Again, when two people love each other, they tend to share one heart. So naturally watching your boyfriend
suffer affects you as well.

Can You Help?

You can, but first you need to understand how depression in men can be slightly different than it is in women.

Regardless of male or female, people will experience the similar symptoms of depression, but when it comes to men; the triggers and specific thoughts they have on their mind may be different than what a woman would experience.

Men can experience depression sometimes if they don’t feel as strong as they would like to be. Things like not having a job, not making enough money, not
feeling like they are adequate for a relationship and even issues in the bedroom can affect a man’s mood and behavior.

If a man feels less masculine then this can affect male hormone levels and contribute to depression. But the other issue is that there is a common cliche in society that says that men have to be the strong ones, just like the irritating and burned out suggestion that women belong in the kitchen.

Yes, we still have stereotypes and as a result if a man doesn’t feel like he can match that “model of a man” he will also have a harder time talking about it. Men just aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings, right? Well all humans need opportunities to connect with others and share their thoughts and emotions. It’s healthy.

If Your Boyfriend Is Depressed – Here Are The Best Ways You Can Help

1. Be a true partner. Remember that there is a great person currently masked by sadness.

2. Don’t be pushy. The more you push the further he will pull away.

3. Try to maintain some normalcy for him so he doesn’t feel like he’s losing you too.

4. Be very affectionate and tender if you have that kind of a relationship with him.

5. Treat him as being masculine – no man likes pity.

6. If he’s stressed about money, try not to put him in situations where he would feel that he has to provide in that instant.

7. Gently suggest that he go and speak with a doctor or counselor. This is going to be tricky, because men don’t ever want to feel as though they have to rely on an outside source or get help.

8. Suggest to him that right now he’s obviously depressed and that the end goal is getting through the depression. Address it and then try to help him make a mission of it.

For example, you might say something like:

“I know you feel hopeless deep down inside, but I also know that you used to be happier. This means you can be happy again and there is a way. You are obviously very depressed and maybe a little scared about things. This is very common and all day long people are getting help. Let me reach out with you. I’m your partner – do this for us.”

9. Despite what you are reading here, never point out your boyfriend’s depression as “male depression” or talk about how guys get depressed too.

10. Is there a man that he could confide in some? perhaps an older male who has a lot of life’s experiences and wouldn’t make your boyfriend feel threatened. I can tell you honestly that there have been a few times when I relied upon a sacred kinship with some older males that I looked up to. I can also tell you that what they showed me was that the concerns and emotions a man can have are pretty typical for men. Knowing that can help lift a weight off your shoulder.

11. Are you a religious couple? if not – no big deal, but pastors can make great counselors, can be very kind and make great men for other men to look up to.
They’ve also probably heard just about any problem you can think of, because it’s a part of their job.

12. If there’s enough influence and you can get him to see a doctor, this might be a good step. Also consider whether the doctor or nurse practitioner is a man
or a woman.

In this scenario, your boyfriend might feel more comfortable talking about his bout of depression with a man or a woman, but it should be taken into account.

13. He may need to start taking an antidepressant medication if he isn’t already. If he’s having financial issues, there are a lot of generic medicines out there
that are very affective and super cheap.

Sometimes a person doesn’t have to stay on an antidepressant for very long and then sometimes they need it long term to cope, but regardless – it’s an answer.

Why Is My Boyfriend Depressed?

Here are some of the common causes of depression in men..

Work related stress
Worries about finances
Performance issues in the bedroom
Relationship problems
Not achieving personal goals that are important to your boyfriend
Feelings of loss of identity
Concerns about family
Alcohol abuse
Nicotine withdrawal
Fears of aging

Unfortunately the signs of male depression can also be mistaken for typical, masculine behavior. This can lead you or others to not realizing that your boyfriend is depressed.

Sometimes when men suffer from depression they don’t act particularly sad, but become increasingly agitated, angry, aggressive and conflict-prone.

Erectile Dysfunction & Depression

Depression and stress can cause sexual performance issues in men from erectile  dysfunction to premature ejaculation. In turn, not being able to have quality
love making can make your boyfriend depressed.

Unfortunately, sometimes SSRIs (antidepressants) can cause erectile dysfunction. However, addressing other issues can lead to natural solutions as well. Developing better habits, exercising, starting a healthier diet and avoiding substance abuse can be a good starting point if your boyfriend is depressed.

What Is Psychotherapy And How Does It Work?

Psychotherapy is one treatment option for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, but if you’re new to the concept of deep therapy then you might have a lot of questions. Primarily, what is it? how does it work? what can I expect from my session working with a therapist?

What Is Psychotherapy?

Whether you are dealing with emotional trauma, a form of depression or are overwhelmed by life’s big problems, therapy is a way to take a step outside of yourself and see the bigger picture. Often times you realize that the bigger picture is a positive one and that you’re just trapped within yourself.

Most people don’t want to talk about their feelings and will instead harbor their true emotions and thought processes. This is typically acceptable, but it becomes an issue if you have depression and feel like no one understands you.

As a side note, the whole thinking process behind “no one understands” is in itself very common and truth be told – a lot of people do understand. Since depression affects so many millions of people and although it can be triggered from different, personal things, it still does not mean that you are the only one going through this.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking keeps a lot of people from seeking professional help. However, if you take that first step here is maybe what you can expect from seeking some counseling.

1. Psychotherapy Is About Growth

What does this mean? Well it means that the counselor’s job is to listen and then guide you. It’s not meant to necessarily diagnose you, but mainly to allow yourself to talk it out.

A therapist can even supply you with a sort of road map to get onto a better track. A professional acknowledges the problems and hears the darker feedback, but is also feeling out opportunities to get you back to a healthier, happier state.

2. Psychotherapy Doesn’t Have To Be Heavy

Of course this all depends on the personality of the therapist, but it’s not always just tears. There is no reason that the patient and the practitioner can’t crack a few jokes and be down to earth with each other.

After all, if you were conversing about your issues with a professional who was cold, don’t you suspect this wouldn’t be very therapeutic? A psychotherapist is
a person too and wants to influence you in a positive manner and allow you to realize that everyone in life has concerns, fears and issues.

3. The Mind Is Very Powerful

The mind can be a blessing and a curse. It’s where our fears, emotions and cognition begin. As a result, technically a human could do just about anything
good in their life if they could release themselves from the shackling of their limiting beliefs.

That’s why behavioral therapy can be so helpful. It can be used to correct your thinking that causes you to act in unsatisfactory ways so that you can be the
best you.

This is done through adaption and can involve many techniques such as motivational enhancement, cognitive behavioral therapy, bio feedback and even sometimes things like meditation and training in relaxation.

So if you feel like you should reach out to a professional, but have some concerns – just remember this.

Therapists understand that you have concerns. They understand that people are afraid of how they will view themselves if they seek help. They understand that you don’t want to be “tinkered” with and their job is to be gentle and provide what you need. No, one patient is alike.

For information regarding finding a professional counselor, here are some great places to get started.

8 Important Facts Regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter is fast approaching and we are currently in the very early stages of the month of October. As such, people who struggle with managing their moods during this time are probably already thinking ahead. I thought it would be interesting to share 8 quick facts about seasonal mood disorder and figured that the best way to illustrate this would be to use an infographic.

Keep in mind, my design skills are not the greatest, but I figured a resource that you could take a quick glance over would be helpful in understanding what kinds of people are dealing with seasonal affective disorder.

8 interesting and little known facts about SAD

8 interesting and little known facts about SAD