What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

With the ending of daylight savings time, many people don’t see nearly as much daylight as they used to, especially if they work a regular 9-5 work day. The sky starts getting dark around 5, and with that, people’s moods generally worsen. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a category of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Most people notice SAD symptoms starting in the fall and increasing during the winter months, but a few people experience a spring/summer version.

Symptoms of SAD are the same as symptoms of major depression, they just coincide with specific seasons (winter or summer).

The symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Additional symptoms associated with the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

Symptoms of the less frequently occurring summer seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Poor appetite with associated weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior

Luckily, there are ways that can help someone cope with SAD. Treatments can include medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, or increased vitamin D intake.

There are also several ways to boost your mood, including:

  • Soaking up morning sunshine
  • Maintaining your routine
  • Exercising
  • Eating healthier and ditching sugar
  • Getting fresh air
  • Develop wintertime hobbies (skiing, ice skating, new fitness classes, etc.)
  • Book a trip – taking a break from winter weather and work is important for anyone’s mental health

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