Everything You Should Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder
Do you have a favorite season? Most of us have a season that lifts our spirits and makes us want to get out and do stuff that we don’t normally do. By the same token, most of us have seasons that we don’t like as much, and we tend to snuggle down on the couch and watch movies on Netflix until that time of the year passes.
Around here, our favorite season is fall. Something about the crunch of the leaves under our feet, the smell of bonfires, and thoughts of snuggling up in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa at the local high school football game just gets us going as the temperatures fall from the 100 degree summers we have here in the south to the chillier temperatures of autumn.
Then, the winter sets in.
For many of us, winter is the season that we become inactive and don’t go out much. It gets dark early, it’s cold, rainy, and just downright gloomy. It can be depressing and for many people, it can lead to SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. In this blog, we will discuss the symptoms of SAD, how to prevent it from setting in, and a few things you can do to treat it if it does.
Grab your cup of cocoa, don’t forget the whipped cream, and join us in our journey to tell you everything you need to know about Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as Seasonal Depression.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depression that strikes most people in the cold, dark winter months and in some people in autumn as well. There are a few things that are thought to trigger Seasonal Depression. We will go into those causes below.
Causes of SAD Explained
There are a few different causes of Seasonal Depression that have been discovered. We will talk about five of them below.
There’s Less Daylight
One of the main causes of SAD is thought to be in direct correlation to there being less daylight in the winter months. That means that you are receiving less vitamin D, which increases the level of serotonin in your body. Since this neurotransmitter increases your sense of overall wellness, doing without it can cause depression to set in.
This is a hormone found in your body that helps with your what your sleep pattern looks like. In the winter and fall, there is less sunlight, which can throw your production into overdrive. This, in turn, makes you feel sluggish and much sleepier than normal, which can result in you being depressed.
Your Circadian Rhythm
This is actually your body’s clock, and the lack of sunlight in the winter months can throw that clock all out of whack. The result is a lack of appetite, excessive sleepiness, and depression.
It Could be Genetic
Seasonal Affective Disorder is said to be genetic. If you have someone in your family who has suffered from SAD in the past, it’s possible you will as well. For example, if one of your parents suffers from Seasonal Depression, then you are at risk of it as well, especially if you struggle with depression already.
You’re Mourning the Loss of Summer
If you’re at your best during the summer months, it’s possible that you’re mourning the loss of the long days and high temperatures, not to mention all of the activities that summer brings along with it. Just the fact that you despise the cold weather coupled with the short days is enough to trigger SAD if you already struggle with symptoms of depression as it is.
Symptoms of SAD
Now that we know what it is and what the causes of SAD are thought to be, it’s time to move into our section on the symptoms that you could experience. If you think you are suffering from Seasonal Depression, but you just aren’t sure, read on below for some of the signs and symptoms to be revealed.
- You’re down and your mood is low
- You lack the energy to get going
- You are sleeping longer than normal
- You have difficulty getting out of bed
- Your interest in the activities you love to do has waned
- You feel unmotivated
- You’re having feelings of despair
- You’re craving comfort and junk foods
- You’re gaining weight
- Your appetite has changed
It’s important to note at this point that SAD mirrors the symptoms of common depression. There is also a small percentage of people that suffer from Seasonal Depression during the spring and summer months, but it is a very small percentage and very rare.
Now that we know the causes, signs, and symptom of SAD, we can move into our section on how to prevent the disorder from affecting you when the days become shorter and the temperatures plummet outside.
Tips for Preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
While there are no concrete ways to prevent SAD from occurring during the winter months, there are said to be quite a few things you can try to help prevent it. Read on below for a few of those things you can try.
Take a Walk in the Sun
While it might not be a balmy 75 degrees where you live in the winter months, you can still get out and take a stroll in the sun, when the temperature allows. Just the act of walking in the sunlight can give you a shot of much-needed vitamin D. This might be enough to help to prevent and treat your SAD symptoms. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that a lack of vitamin D in the winter can cause cluster headaches.
The dark and gloom of winter dampen the levels of serotonin in your body, so opening your shades and blinds to let the sunshine in during the day can help to prevent SAD from settling in and improve your mood at the same time. One thing to note, you should close the blinds after the morning sun, because keeping them open later can mess with your sleep cycle, which can lead to SAD symptoms as well.
Get More Active
While it may be tempting to curl up on the couch with a mug of coffee, a good book, and a roaring fire until the spring flowers start to boom, this is the worst thing you can do. It’s important to get out and be as active as you can during the winter months. Whether it’s ice skating, skiing, or something as simple as going out to dinner and a movie with a friend, it can help to relieve the depression of SAD, even if you have to force yourself to get up off the couch and go.
Watch What You Eat
When you’re depressed, it’s super easy to fall into the habit of eating comfort and sugar-filled foods, especially during the winter months. One of the best ways to prevent Seasonal Effective Disorder is by making sure that you eat the way you should. Pump up the produce and lay off the sugar and salty foods if you want to feel better.
SAD-Proof Your Home
Something as simple as changing out the paintings on your walls or the pillows and throws on the couch can help to prevent a SAD occurrence. Even changing the background on your computer to a tropical scene can lift your spirits and help you forget the cold and dark outside.
Tips for Treating SAD
There are also a few ways that you can treat Seasonal Affective Disorder once the symptoms have hit. We will go into those tips below.
The most common and most talked about way to treat Seasonal Depression is said to be light therapy. This therapy works by exposing you to artificial light that is said to mimic the sun. It’s important to note, however, that there is no concrete proof that this actually works. The therapy is administered via light boxes, which you can actually buy online.
If you have been diagnosed with SAD, ask your doctor which options in light boxes are the best for you and your SAD symptoms.
Try to Avoid Stress as Much as Possible
We all know that avoiding stress in today’s world is much easier said than done, but you need to try. Stress only works to make Seasonal Depression worse. Try avoiding people who trigger your stress, meeting deadlines in plenty of time, and try to keep your workload as reasonable as possible. We know that is much easier said than done, but it’s worth a shot anyway.
See Your Doctor
While it will probably be a last-ditch effort for most of us, it is possible that you might need to be put on medication to control the depression that comes with having Seasonal Affective Disorder. Make sure that you see your doctor as soon as you feel you can’t handle the depression yourself, as it’s nothing to play with and can be dangerous to your health and mental state as well.
These are just a few tips to help you manage your Seasonal Depression. Now, let’s look at a few facts about this disorder that you might not have known.
Things You Might Not Know
There are a few facts about Seasonal Affective Disorder you might not have known. Read about them below.
- Between 60 and 90 percent of people suffering from SAD are women
- If you are a female between the ages of 15 and 55, you are more apt to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder
- SAD is said to be more about daylight, or lack of, than the cold temperatures of winter
- SAD can be treated in a variety of ways
- The debate still rages as to whether light therapy has side effects or not
- You can do this!
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real disease that affects many more people than you might think. There are also risk factors that make you more likely to develop SAD and complications that you should look out for if you suffer from the disorder.
Risk Factors for Developing SAD
Here are a few risk factors for you to consider.
Your Family History
If there is a history of Seasonal Affective Disorder in your family tree, you are more apt to develop the condition yourself.
If You Suffer from Major Depression or You are Bi-Polar
People who already suffer from major depression or suffer from Bi-polar disorder are at greater risk of developing Seasonal Depression.
If You a Far Distance From the Equator
This disorder tends to be more common in people who live where the sun isn’t out a lot of the day. People in Alaska and other places like it suffer from the disorder more often than others.
Complications to Look For
It’s important to take the symptoms of SAD very seriously, as it can get worse if it isn’t treated.
- Having problems at work or school
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and all social connections
- Substance abuse
- Developing other mental disorders, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
If you have SAD and are experiencing these complications, please contact your primary health care provider right away for an appointment, so that you can get the help you need, when you need it.
This concludes our blog on everything you should know about Seasonal Affective Disorder. From causes to signs and symptoms, and from prevention to treatment, you don’t have to deal with Seasonal Depression alone. There are plenty of groups out there with people who have the same disorder you do, so reach out for help now.
- Mayo Clinic: Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Seeking Serotonin: 5 Ways to Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder A.K.A Seasonal Depression
- Prevention: 8 Mood-Boosting Tips to Help Soothe Seasonal Affective Disorder