Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is something that I have been suffering from since college. Each year during the fall, I experience a considerable decrease in my mood. My anxiety shoots through the roof. Insomnia takes over my nights and I find it near impossible to focus on anything. I spend the whole winter praying for the springtime and the longer days that come with it. I wanted to write this post for anyone that is suffering from similar symptoms and doesn’t already know what the problem is.
According to Medline, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It usually starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.” The cause of SAD is heavily debated. Some psychologies even go as far to say it doesn’t exist. Seeing as I, and many others, experience symptoms every fall and winter, I would say it does.
The symptoms of seasonal depression are very similar to those of clinical and major depression. Most sufferers experience fatigue, loss of interest, and a decrease in mood. Some can also suffer social withdrawal. Weight gain or loss is common along with insomnia or oversleeping. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms with yourself or a loved one, please seek medical help. Seasonal depression is still depression and proper treatment can help improve one’s quality of life.
There are three typical treatment options for SAD: Light therapy, medication, and talk therapy. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is when a patient sits in front of a bright light for 30-minute sessions. The bright lights are called light boxes and are used to supplement the lack of sunlight during the winter. Think of it as artificial sunlight. When treating SAD, doctors use the same types of medications they use to treat clinical depression. Medicine is only used for certain cases of SAD, so it may be prescribed if your doctor sees fit. Some studies have shown talk therapy to be extremely beneficial in treating seasonal affective disorder.
SAD sufferers can also try working out, getting outside for fresh air, and meditation. I know working out helps my mood a lot when I can build up enough energy to do it. In some extreme instances relocation is necessary for suffers to find relief from seasonal affective disorder. Moving to a place with short or no winters can eliminate most symptoms in those with SAD.