Seasonal Affective Disorder 101
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is on the rise as the sun finds itself setting earlier and earlier. This form of depression gradually appears in the fall and winter, the two seasons in which people tend to receive the least amount of exposure from the sun. SAD differs from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in that the symptoms typically go dormant in the spring and summer – but that doesn’t lessen its severity. For those who suffer from SAD, the fall and winter can seemingly go on forever, and it can be difficult to function during everyday life.
Typical symptoms of SAD include:
• Lack of interest in normal activities
• Social withdrawal
• Changes in appetite, such as craving foods high in carbohydrates
• Weight gain
• Low energy
• Hypersensitivity to rejection
• Feelings of depression, hopelessness, or worthlessness
Unsurprisingly, these are also common symptoms of MDD. About half a million Americans are negatively affected by the changing seasons and darkening of the summer light, so it’s important for sufferers to know they’re not alone and can receive assistance that can help push them through the darker days.
Here are some more facts about SAD:
2. It’s about sunlight – not the temperature
Some experts believe that reduced sunlight increases the body’s production of a body chemical called melatonin, which is what helps regulate sleep, and it can also cause symptoms of depression. An excess of melatonin can cause one to oversleep and to have low energy. In fact, melatonin is often recommended to MDD sufferers who have trouble sleeping.
3. Light therapy can be a great tool for treatment
While light therapy may not have long-term effects, it can be a great resource to help those affected with SAD to be exposed to more light. This kind of therapy involves exposure to a specialized light box for a prescribed period of time, and is more effective when used in the morning.
4. SAD can run in the family
Just like MDD and other mental illnesses, SAD can be hereditary. Studies suggest this because there is a genetic connection between serotonin secretions and a person’s ethnic background. Those of Northern European decent are at a high risk.
5. SAD can occur in the summer, too
It’s not as common, but summer depression is another form of SAD. Those affected usually start to experience symptoms like poor appetite, weight loss, and sleep disturbances stemming from things like the heat and humidity.
If you or someone you know is wondering how to find help treating a depressive disorder, call PsychGuides’ helpline at 1-888-606-1062.