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How To Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder With The Help Of Cannabis

How to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with the Help of Cannabis

Growing up in Ohio, I grew to realize that you need to really savor each and every warm sunny day because I knew that come late fall, those days would be hard to come by and my seasonal depression would make it’s unwelcome return. I know, I know – everyone dreads the colder months, right? Well for many of us, our depression and/or anxiety worsen in the winter months. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects about 5% of adults in the U.S. and it typically lasts for around 40% of the year. Naturally, it is more common among women than men. Around the Great Lakes, cities report over half of the year being spent under heavy cloud cover. I actually had a doctor tell me once that everyone living in this area should be taking extra Vitamin D because we don’t receive enough from the natural sunlight.

We know that cannabis can help alleviate anxiety and depression, but can it help aid those suffering from SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and what causes it?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter.” Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression, or winter depression, classified in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this disorder is identified as a type of depression – Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. 

Similar to “regular depression”, people with SAD tend to experience mood changes. Symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and they typically improve with the arrival of spring. Seasonal Depression is more than just the “winter blues” – symptoms can be very distressing and overwhelming and can severely impact a person’s daily functioning.

With the change in seasons, people can experience a shift in their biological internal clock, or circadian rhythm, that can cause their whole system to be out of whack. The lack of sunlight during the winter months often results in a dramatic decrease in vitamin D for many of us living under seemingly constant cloud coverage.

Chemical Imbalances

As with many mental health disorders, people who suffer from seasonal anxiety suffer from some sort of chemical imbalance in their brain. Such imbalances affect serotonin levels which can have a dramatic effect on how often someone can feel happy or sad. SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours in the winter. Although each one of us is experiencing the change of season, each one of us will experience these natural fluctuations differently.

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Lack of Sunlight During Winter

With the change in seasons, people can experience a shift in their biological internal clock, or circadian rhythm, that can cause their whole system to be out of whack. The lack of sunlight during the winter months often results in a dramatic decrease in vitamin D for many of us living under seemingly constant cloud coverage.

3 ways cannabis helps to overcome SAD

Although the research is limited on the specific relationship between Seasonal Affective Disorder and cannabis, preliminary studies show that cannabis can be highly effective in helping to combat symptoms associated with SAD.

Alleviate Anxiety

High levels of THC can sometimes worsen a person’s anxiety, so studies recommend using a product with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD to help in alleviating anxiety.

Increase Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is responsible for communicating messages between the nerve cells throughout our bodies. It is located within the central nervous system and helps neurological brain cells form connections that allow it to affect a number of bodily functions, specifically your mood. Again, research is limited but initial reports show that when used in moderation, cannabis has the ability to increase serotonin levels in patients.

Improve quality of sleep

We know that getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good mental health and optimal functionality during the day, but many who suffer from SAD experience debilitating insomnia – making it near impossible to sleep through the night. Cannabis can help! Finding a strong indica product, maybe even in the form of an edible that will likely also include some melatonin, can help ease you into a nice slumber. *

*Pro-Tip: This is a great way to “hibernate” your way through the winter months. 😉

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