What you need to know about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often called Seasonal Depression, is as it sounds, depression that follows a seasonal pattern. This seasonal mood disorder is not fully understood, but there are a few theories and it is known that people with other mood disorders (bipolar or depression) are more at risk. A late-fall/early-winter onset is common as the levels of light start to decrease, but there is also summer-patterned SAD that is lesser-known.
Many people are able to self-diagnosis seasonal depression, but it's always important to talk to a doctor when you experience any changes to your mood.
Don't let SAD bully you. The best way to treat seasonal depression is to be proactive.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression, is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. This means that mood might change with the seasons. Many people with depression experience changes in their circadian rhythm, such as sleeping too little or too much, but with seasonal depression, it is possible that the change in the amount of light could affect the body's natural circadian rhythm leading to depression. That being said, those previously diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to feel the changes with the seasons. Light has a few known influences in the brain, including serotonin and melatonin release, and even though SAD is not fully understood, trying to regulate these influences with light or medication can significantly reduce symptoms.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Most of the symptoms of SAD are consistent with that of major depression, but there are a few specific symptoms for winter and a few for summer-patterned depression (severity and combination of symptoms is specific to the individual (you do not need to express all symptoms to be diagnosed with SAD, depression, or bipolar disorder).
Symptoms of Major Depression:
Lost interest in activities you used to enjoy
Changes in appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Feeling down most of the day, nearly every day
Thoughts of death or suicide
Get Immediate Help: If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Liveline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the toll-free TTY number at 1-800-799-4TTY (4889), or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Specific symptoms of winter-pattern SAD
Specific symptoms of summer-pattern SAD
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Restlessness and agitation
Episodes of violent behavior or mania
How is SAD treated?
When dealing with seasonal depression, a lot of the focus is on treating the disruption to the natural circadian rhythm. Common treatments include...
Talk to your healthcare provider about what treatment or combination of treatments is best for you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
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