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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you find yourself feeling down this time of year? Maybe you don’t feel like yourself. It’s hard to get out of bed, find the motivation to do things or even spend time with people you care about. You might even start to feel fatigued or have a sense of hopelessness. Have you felt that way in years past? Does it tend to go away by the time Spring rolls around? While these are generalizations, they could also be signs that you’re dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. So, don’t brush off your feelings this year as nothing more than the “winter blues.” By understanding SAD and how it can make you feel, you’ll be able to practice healthy coping mechanisms.

What Are the Common Symptoms?

While we already covered some of the general symptoms of SAD above, it can impact everyone slightly differently. If you’ve ever experienced depression before, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. They often include:

  • Feeling depressed almost every day
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low energy
  • Lack of interest in things you typically enjoy

While Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur any time of year, it’s more common in the fall and winter. Some of the specific signs associated with SAD during these seasons include oversleeping, tiredness, and weight gain.

What Causes SAD?

The exact cause of SAD is unknown, which is why the symptoms are so vast. Some people’s lives are severely impacted by it, while others are still able to cope throughout the season with minor changes.

However, there are some factors that can have an influence on those with SAD, including circadian rhythms and the level of serotonin your brain produces. For some, less sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop. When you live in an area that is often cloudy (especially in the winter) or where there are fewer hours of daylight, those levels can drop dramatically.

The change in circadian rhythms and light throughout the day can also make it difficult to get the sleep your mind and body need. Sleep and depression are heavily linked. Without adequate sleep, it’s easier to fall into a depressed state. Unfortunately, that often creates a vicious cycle, since depression can make it harder to get a restful night’s sleep, too.

What Can You Do?

If you’re concerned that you’re dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you don’t have to just “deal with it” year after year.

One of the best solutions is light therapy. There are specific lightboxes and bulbs that can be purchased to simulate daylight. Using these for even a few minutes a day can help to regulate your circadian rhythms and boost your serotonin levels.

Additionally, you can manage your SAD by spending time outside during the day. It might be cold, but being outside to enjoy a few minutes of sunlight can make a big difference. Things like maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and meditating are all great ways to combat the effects of SAD, as well.

If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or a therapist. Talking to a mental health professional is especially effective when your feelings of depression have started to negatively impact different areas of your life.

With that in mind, feel free to contact us for more information about SAD, or to set up an appointment. Together, we’ll work on ways you can cope throughout the season and beyond. Those mechanisms can carry you through this year, but they can also help you to manage SAD for the rest of your life, so you don’t have to dread the fall and winter months.