Wondering what is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and what can be done about it? Well, you aren’t alone. During the fall and winter months, most people experience a phenomenon called winter blues, but when it’s impacting your everyday life, it might be more than just blues: it might be SAD. As a person who struggles with SAD, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to tell the difference and how important it is to distinguish between the two. As they say, knowledge is power. And if you’re asking yourself, “is Seasonal Affective Disorder real,” I can assure you that the answer is “yes.” If you suspect or know you’re experiencing this common condition, it’s much easier to manage and treat. You don’t have to spend half the year in a deep funk. There’s plenty that can be done about it.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that recurs around the same time every year, usually in the fall and winter and waning in the spring / summer months (though it can sometimes be reversed. The primary causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are reduced exposure to sunlight which leads to vitamin D deficiencies and an increase in melatonin production. But that’s not the end of the story. Not everyone who lives in colder climates experiences SAD. There are other risk factors including family history of Major Depressive Disorder or Bi-Polar, and it’s also more common in women between 18 – 30.
It’s estimated that approximately 5% of people in the US experience SAD with the highest incidence being furthest from the equator. Maybe that’s why so many Michiganders move to Florida (haha).
Symptoms of SAD
So, how can you tell the difference between SAD and winter blues? The symptoms can be similar but it’s important to note that just as with sorrow vs. depression there is a difference between having an off day or two and experiencing ongoing symptoms (especially when there seems to be no known trigger).
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder Include
- Sleep Problems
- Low Energy
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Agitation or Anxiety
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Leaden Feeling in the Arms or Legs
- Increased Appetite (especially cravings for refined carbs and sugar)
It’s important to know that you might not experience all these symptoms but if you’re experiencing any of them regularly it may be time to see a doctor.
Treatments for SAD
SAD treatment options vary widely. Many find tremendous benefits from light therapy while others find medication to be most helpful. That’s why it’s important to seek medical care if you suspect you may have SAD, especially if winter blues treatments aren’t working for you.
Some common home treatments for winter blues may also help with SAD.
- Full spectrum lights or light therapy
- Increased exercise
- Omega 3 Supplements
- Spending time outdoors (especially mid-day without sunscreen)
You may however find that this isn’t quite cutting it. If that is the case you may need further intervention which may include:
- Talk therapy
- Vitamin D supplementation (you can ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels and recommend a reputable brand and effective dose amount)
It is always best to err on the side of caution, which means seeing a health care professional if you suspect you are suffering from SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real condition with many treatment options and should not be taken lightly or dismissed.
Hope for Seasonal Affective Disorder
There is no need to suffer through the fall and winter months. Getting help can make all the difference. Don’t just write off your symptoms as winter blues and try to white knuckle through it. Make an appointment with your health care provider to talk more about what is Seasonal Affective Disorder and the right treatment options for you. And head over to Amazon and grab a full-spectrum lamp or bulb today!