What exactly is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It’s a form of depression known as SAD, seasonal depression or winter depression. Over 10 million individuals suffer from it every fall or winter. it is identifies as a type of depression known as Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern. While people may have their depression under control, the seasonal pattern of depression usually seek up on them.
I have to admit, it snuck up me this year. I was on my happy way enjoy the crisp air and crunchy leaves. And then Bam it was there.
A few years ago I didn’t know a single thing about SAD.
People with SAD excuses mood changes and symptoms similar to depression. The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring. The most difficult months for people with SAD in the United States tend to be in January and February. But can be difficult as the weather turns colder in the fall.
SAD is more than just the winter blues. The symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming and can interfere with daily functioning.
SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. As seasons change people experience a shift in the biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause then to be out of step with their daily schedule. Sad is more common in people living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight hour in the winter.
Common symptoms of SAD include fatigue, even too much sleep, and weight gain associated with over eating and carbohydrates cravings. SAD include many symptoms similar yo depression, such as:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite, usually eating more craving carbohydrates.
- Change is sleep, usually sleeping too much.
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours.
- Increase in purposeless physical activity like inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing or slowed movements or speech with others around you noticing.
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficultly thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
SAD may begin at any age, but it typically starts when a person is between ages 18-30.
There are treatments for SAD, they are light therapy, talk therapy, or antidepressants can help some people. I use light therapy.
While symptoms will improve on their own with the change of the season, treatment can improve symptoms more quickly with treatment.
Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box that emits a very bright and filters out the harmful UV rays. It usually requires 20 minutes a day first thing in the morning during the late fall and winter months. Most people see some improvement from light therapy within one to two weeks of beginning treatment. A light box is quite expensive most insurance companies don’t pay for them. I have found that a salt lamp works just as well and a whole lot cheaper.
Talk therapy is cognitive behavior therapy can effectively treat SAD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are anti-depression most commonly used to treat SAD. I usually try and stay away from pills as much as I can. Some how popping a pill with side affected and who knows what isn’t very appealing to me. But the choice is yours.
For some people, increased exposure to sunlight can help improve symptoms of SAD. Spend time outside as much as possible, or set up a room where you spend most of your time where you are by a sunny window most of the day.
As always if you feel you have symptoms of SAD seek help from a trained medical professional. It is important to make sure there is not other medical conditions causing symptoms. SAD can be misdiagnosed in the presence of hypothyroidism, hyperglycemia, and mononucleosis, and other viral infections. Proper evaluation is key.