Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder
The National Institute of Mental Health reports millions of American adults may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with many not knowing they have the condition. Some people can start to feel “down” in the fall and winter as the days get shorter, and then feel improvement in the spring with longer daylight hours. When these mood changes are more serious and impact how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily stressors and activities it can be a sign of SAD, which is a type of depression.
The signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with depression with a recurrent seasonal pattern of symptoms lasting about 4-5 months per year. Depressive symptoms with winter-pattern SAD include hypersomnia (oversleeping), overeating with a craving for carbohydrates, weight gain, and social withdrawal. These are in addition to common depression symptoms including feeling depressed most of the day; losing interest in activities; changes in appetite, weight, sleep, and energy level; feeling hopeless or worthless; difficulty concentrating; and thoughts of death or suicide.
There are treatments to help with SAD, but many Americans continue to suffer year after year due to a lack of understanding and diagnosis of SAD. If you or someone you know if struggling with symptoms of SAD they should contact their physician for diagnosis and to begin treatment interventions. Common treatments include Vitamin D, Antidepressant Medication, Psychotherapy, and Light Therapy. Given the cyclical nature of SAD, the best treatment results are often seen with early intervention and plans for support as the seasons change.