Seasonal Affective Disorder

While winter does have a certain elegant beauty, the days are shorter and less bright causing many people each year to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is a type of depression that occurs during specific seasons usually starting in late fall and continuing until the start of spring though in rare cases can occur during the summer months.

Since SAD is a type of depression, its symptoms mirror major depression symptoms listed below.

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy and constantly feeling fatigued
  • Having thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling agitated
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite

Some symptoms that are particularly prevalent in Winter onset SAD are overeating, weight gain, having low energy or withdrawing socially.

Women are more likely than men to develop SAD and you’re at a higher risk for developing SAD if you have a family history of depression or suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder. But one of the biggest factors in developing SAD is the reduced sunlight in the winter and how that affects your body.

  • Affects your circadian rhythm—which is your biological clock. This disruption can lead to feelings of depression.
  • Causes a drop in serotonin—a brain chemical that affects your mood.
  • Disrupts the balance of melatonin levels in your body affecting your sleep pattern and mood.

Since reduced sunlight is such a major factor in Winter onset SAD, it’s no surprise that Light Therapy is a standard form of treatment. For Light Therapy, you sit in front of special light therapy box that mimics the light you would receive from the sun and helps better regulate those chemicals in the brain that affect your mood. Light Therapy generally starts working fairly quickly—in a few days to a couple of weeks and has few reported side effects.

Other forms of treatment include antidepressants or Psychotherapy where you learn how to manage stress and cope with SAD by changing negative behaviors that make you feel worse. You’ll want to consult your doctor for diagnosis and the best treatment plan for you.

Depression in any form isn’t easy to deal with, but just like the promise of spring flowers gives us hope that new life waits below the surface, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you suffer from SAD. You’re not alone. Consult your doctor for professional help and surround yourself with friends and loved ones to support you during this difficult season.