It’s that time of year where darkness seems to be sucking away our daylight and cold, rainy weather eats up the rest. January alone is known as the most depressing month of the year and it’s no wonder since around this time the skies are gray, the air is chilled and more importantly, the sun is rarely seen. It’s also the time of year when seasonal depression, known as SAD, sets in. It starts and ends around the same time every year and for most, happens around the fall and winter months. About 10 million adults in the U.S. are affected by SAD at least once in their life, with women being affected four times more than men. The average age that one can develop seasonal depression is around 23 years old and where a person lives is known to increase or decrease their chances of being affected by this disorder. Though this disorder naturally goes away on its own, it’s important to talk to someone if you suspect you may be dealing with it. Things to know concerning seasonal depression are as follows.
- What causes SAD?
- How SAD Affects You
What Causes SAD?
There is no proof that proves exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder but there are theories . Theories like the changes in the seasons that disrupt the natural levels of melatonin production, potentially affecting how a person sleeps and their overall mood. Or a decrease in serotonin levels caused by a vitamin D deficiency which can affect the mood patterns of an individual. Lack of sunlight in the fall and winter that can disrupt the body’s internal clock leading to depression and sleepiness. Whatever the cause may be, a decrease of sunlight and cooler temperatures seem to play into what causes SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder can be easily overlooked as its dependent upon the individual and what they are experiencing. It can mimic symptoms of other types of depression or be shrugged off as just a bad day, week or month. The key symptom when it comes to any type of depression is asking yourself if your experiencing symptoms for more than a week and are unable to break past it. This is your que to reach out to someone and talk to them about what you are experiencing. Even if it is temporary, depression and feelings of unshakable sadness lasting more than a week can lead into serious risk factors so it’s better to get a handle on it before it gets worse. Common symptoms of SAD include but are not limited to:
- Daytime fatigue
- Constant sad or depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or useless
- Sleeping much later than usual
- Craving carbs and/or sweets
- Weight Gain
- Loss of Interest in Sex
- Suicidal Thoughts
How SAD Affects You?
Seasonal depression is not something you want to dismiss. It affects your day in and day out both in your personal life and professional life. Not seeking treatment can lead to more problems. Some of which may include:
- Isolating yourself from social settings
- Missing work
- Having trouble in class
- Drinking more
- Use of drugs
- Relationship tensions
- Increase in anxiety
- Other forms of depression
- Suicidal thoughts
Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Though this type of depression typically goes away on its own it is still affecting you while you have it, so learning how you can manage it can be helpful. There are no specific treatment plans but medications such as antidepressants have proven helpful for some. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is another way to combat SAD. Having someone that you can share your thoughts and feelings with plays a crucial role when you are carrying more than usual. They can also provide tips on how to relax, cope with anxiety and suggest positive thought processes to combat negative mindsets. Phototherpy or light therapy is also a common technique to combat SAD since lack of sunlight is a general cause of this disorder. It tricks the body into thinking it’s getting natural light which triggers the chemicals in your brain like serotonin and melatonin, improving mood and energy levels.