What to Know About Seasonal Depressive Disorder

What to Know About Seasonal Depressive Disorder

Seasonal Depressive Disorder, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. It begins about the same time each year generally starting in the Fall and continuing into the Winter, sapping your energy and making you feel moody and/or irritable. Other symptoms include difficulty getting along with other people, hypersensitivity to rejection, increased appetite with weight gain, changes in sleeping patterns, less energy and ability to concentrate and social withdrawal. There is no test for SAD but your healthcare provider can make a diagnosis based on your history of symptoms.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about seasonal affective disorder, its treatment options and how it affects people’s daily lives.

1. Light Therapy

For a long time, many considered light therapy one of the gold standards of SAD treatment. The method helps sufferers by exposing them to artificial light similar to sunlight. Experts theorize this technique helps correct the body’s inner circadian rhythm and produces feel-good hormones that people get from the sun during other times of the year.

However, light therapy isn’t the only route. Since the key is treating the underlying depression, that could include methods like cognitive behavioral therapy, medication or both. 

2. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Healthy

Symptoms of SAD include sadness, fatigue and a loss of motivation. Any depressive disorder can also be physically exhausting. People with depression often experience headaches and changes in appetite in addition to their emotional symptoms. Make sure you are eating healthy and that you are getting enough sleep. 

3. The condition is complex.

SAD can not only be a component of major depression, but also bipolar disorder or other mental health issues. Experts agree that there may be a tie between seasonal changes and exacerbation of illnesses. Like all mental health conditions, the disorder is complicated and as such, deserves thoughtful and effective treatment from a physician. Your healthcare provider may prescribe anti-depression medications and/or talk therapy.

4. It’s more prevalent in northern states.

People who live in colder, cloudier climates may be more susceptible to the disorder. Northern states have higher rates of SAD than southern states, according to the University of California, Irvine.

5. SAD is more common in women.

Studies show women have higher rates of depression than men, including SAD, the New York Times reported. However, that doesn’t mean men are immune. Depression doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any biological factor.

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