Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of mood disorder or depression with symptoms related to changes in seasons. Although the symptoms may resolve within a few months, it can have a severe impact that affects the daily functions and feelings in some people.
This condition is more common among women, young adults, and people who are far away from the equator. Also, those coming from a family with a history of depression are more likely to experience SAD.
At some specific times, you may experience variation in your moods. For instance, you may notice that a longer sunny day makes you feel energized and joyful, while a cloudy or rainy day makes you feel tired and gloomy.
The same concept applies to those people experiencing the seasonal affective disorder. During such episodes, some people may feel mood disturbances arising from the shorter days accompanied by the winter seasonal stress, especially in the colder months of the year.
Generally, seasonal affective disorder symptoms occur during the early winter months or late fall and disappear during the spring and summer.
The symptoms typically resemble those of depression, including:
- Tiredness and low energy
- Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings leading to weight gain
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Loss of hope and worth in life
- Poor concentration and decision-making
- Frequent suicidal thoughts
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Although the exact causes of SAD are unknown, scientists believe that it occurs due to a disruption in the body’s normal circadian rhythm process. Since winter has shorter days, people may rise early before dawn or leave their office after dusk, which interrupts this rhythm. The rhythm is also affected by the amount of sunlight penetrating through the eyes.
Additionally, scientists have found that people experiencing SAD may have a reduced amount of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood. Balanced serotonin levels create good feeling emotions. Therefore, inadequate amounts may lead to mood disorders such as depression.
There is no lab test available for diagnosing SAD. However, diagnosis focuses on the history of an individual’s involving standards established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). For people to be diagnosed with SAD, they must initially meet major depressive episode criteria. A person should also have at least five of the above symptoms in the first two weeks.
Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Usually, many people experiencing seasonal affective therapy respond well to treatment, which includes medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy.
Coping with SAD
Making lifestyle choices and having healthy habits can significantly decrease SAD symptoms. For instance, you can perform regular exercises, get adequate sleep or rest and eat a healthy balanced diet to cope with symptoms.
Final Thoughts from the Recover
Sometimes, seasonal changes may trigger depression which can get severe and impact your daily functions and well-being. However, if you suspect that symptoms associated with the seasonal affective disorder influence your everyday operations, ensure to visit a rehab center near you to discuss and explore treatment options that will address your needs.