Seasonal Depression, also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects nearly 15 million adults in the U.S. SAD is a form of depression that comes from seasonal weather changes. Most often, you can expect to experience these dips in your mood beginning in the fall months and continuing throughout the winter.
The symptoms that you may expect to see in someone suffering from SAD include the following:
-Feelings of depression that last nearly all day, every day
-Losing interest in activities
-Having thoughts of hopelessness, guilt, or even death
-Decrease or increase in appetite
-Feeling sluggish and having low energy
-Weight changes, either loss or gain
So, what causes SAD? Are there particular risk factors that make one more prone to it? SAD can be caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythm, meaning the reduction of sunlight can disrupt your internal clock. Additionally, this reduced sunlight can decrease serotonin levels making you more prone to feelings of depression. Finally, the change in the seasons can affect your balance of melatonin, which in turn will affect your mood and sleep patterns.
How does one cope with SAD? What can you do to improve seasonal depression or even prevent it from happening?
Common treatments include light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is an activity where you sit near a light box, exposing your mind and body to bright light immediately after you wake up. Light therapy can work by mimicking sunlight, therefore, altering brain chemicals linked to feelings and mood. Medications, specifically antidepressants, can help alleviate symptoms caused by SAD.
Lastly, psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for SAD. Many professionals use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is a form of psychotherapy, to help their patients through SAD by working to identify and then change the distressing thoughts that are causing their SAD symptoms. You may be encouraged to take part in activities that relax the mind and body such as Music therapy, Yoga, Meditation, or Art therapy. Utilizing techniques that can allow you to feel grounded can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of SAD.
While SAD can be challenging, it certainly does not have to consume your life. SAD is a disorder that can be diagnosed and treated, like most other mental health disorders.