What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the same time of year, each year. Many people experience the symptoms of SAD during the fall and winter months. They experience a loss of energy and they feel moody.
It is important that an individual does not simply dismiss these feelings as “the winter blues” and pushes to tough it out on their own. It is best to consult a physician to see if it is possibly something more, like SAD, and what help is available.
What are some of the common symptoms associated with SAD?
Loss of energy
Changes in appetite
Difficulty comprehending and concentrating
How do you know when it’s time to see a doctor?
It is normal for everyone to have some days when they feel a little down and unmotivated, but if those feelings last for more than a day or two and your motivation never seems to return to even normal activities, it’s time to see a doctor.
What causes SAD?
One specific cause for SAD has not been discovered. As with many other conditions, it is likely that a few factors combined may be the cause of the problem. Factors that may contribute to SAD are:
Circadian rhythms, or your biological clock. A disruption in these cycles may lead to feelings of depression.
Melatonin levels. Melatonin plays a main role in sleep patterns and mood. If these get off balance, one’s overall feeling and quality of life may be affected.
Serotonin levels. A decrease in the brain chemical serotonin can affect mood. Reduction in sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, possibly leading to depression.
What treatments are available for SAD?
Light therapy is used in some situations to treat SAD. It mimics outdoor light exposure and appears to cause a change in the brain chemicals that are associated with mood. For further information on light therapy, look at my article on light boxes for SAD. Also, some doctors prescribe medications to help altar the symptoms of SAD if severe enough. This could be a period of trial and error until the right medication in the right dosage is found. Psychotherapy can be used to treat SAD, even though it is mostly biochemical processes that become unbalanced. Mood and behavior can add to the affects on the body. Psychotherapy can be used to help manage or alleviate thought patterns and behaviors that make one feel worse.