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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Does Treatment with Cannabis Help?

Colored leaves on a string showing the change of seasons

Millions of Americans experience some form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While some experience only mild symptoms, others experience symptoms that are much more severe. Naturally, with the legalization of cannabis, many people have wondered if hemp-based products could help manage their symptoms. While we cannot definitively say that cannabis is a proven seasonal affective disorder treatment, what we can say is that initial research is promising.

If you or a loved one suffers from seasonal depression symptoms, take a moment to learn how cannabis, specifically CBD, may be able to help relieve some of your mental health struggles.

What Is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that comes with the changing of the seasons. We often think of SAD as affecting areas of the world that are “gloomy,” but more specifically, SAD affects people who live in areas with less sunlight during the fall and winter months. Shorter daylight hours are directly correlated to seasonal depression symptoms. Keep in mind that, while not as common, it is possible for some to experience seasonal affective disorder in the spring and summer seasons, as well.

Causes

SAD is more than just the winter doldrums, and it is definitely different from the stress people experience during the holiday season. So before we address seasonal affective disorder treatments, it’s worth examining the potential causes of SAD. 

Scientists have not definitively determined exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder, but they believe it could be linked to how your body chemistry interacts with your environment, namely, your body’s natural circadian rhythm of wake and sleep cycles. Additionally, periods of reduced sunlight can affect your body’s chemical levels. By design, serotonin helps you wake up and melatonin helps you fall asleep—both hormones play a role in affecting your mood as well. When something alters these chemical levels in your body—such as not enough sunlight to trigger serotonin production—can affect your overall health and mental state of wellbeing. 

SAD can affect men and women of any age, although it seems to be most prevalent in young adult women. If you wonder if you may be at risk for seasonal affective disorder, some things to consider are if you have a family history of SAD, depression, live in an area that experiences short summers and long winters, or are low in vitamin D. If you find that any of these are true for you, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about SAD, as well as seasonal affective disorder treatments which could help you.

Symptoms of SAD

Person with seasonal depression symptoms standing on a pier

Commonly, seasonal depression symptoms have their onset later in the fall or early in the winter. It’s important to note that people suffering from other types of depression may be at higher risk for experiencing SAD symptoms. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include, but are not limited to:

  • Being disengaged with your day
  • Having depleted energy or trouble getting out of bed
  • Change in appetite or craving carbs
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Guilt

Generally, symptoms of SAD resolve themselves when the seasons change to periods with longer daytime hours. While the cyclical nature of SAD does give hope, depression affects all areas of your life, from your relationships to your work, and can take away from the things you normally enjoy. Simply waiting a few months is a less-than-ideal coping strategy.

If you suspect that you may have seasonal affective disorder, speak with your healthcare provider. There is no need to suffer when you can get help managing your symptoms during the shorter days of the year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments

So other than waiting for the calendar to turn, what can you do when the season brings you down? Seasonal affective disorder treatment methods are a way to manage the symptoms, they are not a cure. Still, the sooner you seek treatment for your seasonal depression symptoms, the more you will be able to prevent them from worsening and complicating your life as the season moves on.

The most common seasonal affective disorder treatment is light. Light therapy has proven to be a good treatment option, however, depending on your unique situation, you may find it best to use light therapy as a supplement to traditional depression treatments such as antidepressants and talk therapies. If you decide to add light therapy, it is important to do so under the supervision of a healthcare provider. There can be too much of a good thing, which means too much light can cause other mental health complications.

Medicinal Value of Cannabis

Cannabis plants for SAD treatment

So what about cannabis as a treatment option for SAD? It’s important to note that there are a variety of cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana, including THC, CBG, CBN, CBD, and many more. Regarding seasonal affective disorder treatment, the primary focus is on cannabidiol, or CBD. 

CBD is found in both hemp and marijuana. However, it is the dominant cannabinoid in hemp. Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC have shown great clinical promise with their anti-inflammatory properties. While research surrounding THC and CBD is still in its infancy, CBD has begun to reveal itself as an anticonvulsant, antioxidant, and antidepressant, among other potential medicinal values. There is even some research to support that CBD has anti-stress effects, which may aid in treating depression.

Like other botanicals, cannabis contains other compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids. While these other compounds play their role in giving cannabis its unique fragrance and taste, they too may have their own unique medicinal values, primarily anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Anti-Inflammatory Cannabis

This rich blend of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids gives cannabis a unique opportunity to aid people looking for more options for seasonal affective disorder treatment. This is because of its anti-inflammatory capabilities. Inflammatory diseases are prolific in the world, and some research suggests that inflammation could be the root cause of nearly all diseases. Interestingly enough, depression is linked to an inflammatory response.

Cannabis for SAD

Considering that depression is an inflammatory response and cannabis has a host of anti-inflammatory properties, you may be thinking about cannabis as a possible seasonal affective disorder treatment. Before you do, you’ll want to ask your healthcare provider whether cannabis will affect any other medications or treatments you are currently using. If you and your practitioner decide that cannabis is right for you, you will want to look at either marijuana strains which are high in CBD or hemp-derived full- or broad-spectrum CBD products.

Texas 420 Doctors Can Help

If you are managing any variety of health-related conditions and believe that cannabis may be a viable treatment, Texas 420 Doctors can help. Our website is a wealth of information you may find helpful as you explore medical cannabis. As you do your research to learn which cannabis is best for your specific condition, be sure to check out our blog. It is our goal to provide you with the most accurate cannabis information to help you best take control of your health conditions. 

If you believe that you have a qualifying condition and feel that cannabis may be right for you, the next step is to get qualified. Our providers are board certified and registered with the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas. We are always happy to answer your questions about cannabis, so don’t hesitate to contact us today.