Seasonal Affective Disorder: More Than Just the Winter Blues
If you find yourself feeling overly tired, sluggish, and unmotivated to participate in your favorite activities during the winter months, it could be more than just the cold getting to you. You could suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), an ailment that affects more than 3 million Americans each year.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression related to the changes in seasons. It’s most common to see symptoms begin in the fall, worsen in the winter, and taper off toward spring, though there are rare cases of reverse-season SAD beginning in spring and lasting throughout summer.
SAD differs from traditional depression, since the onset of symptoms is linked to the biological effects of decreased sunlight and shorter days. The disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm due to decreased sunlight impacts levels of serotonin – the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood – and melatonin – a hormone that aids in managing sleep patterns – has been linked to SAD. People without diagnosed general depression can suffer from SAD, and those with general depression will not necessarily develop SAD.
If you have a family history of SAD or general depression, you may be more at risk to suffer from SAD. Those with diagnosed major depression or bipolar disorder can see a worsening of their symptoms seasonally. SAD also is more common in those living far from the equator – north or south – where there’s often less sunlight and the nights are longer.
What Are the Symptoms of SAD?
There are many symptoms associated with SAD. Many sufferers of SAD may experience some or all of them. Common symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or depressed for large portions of the day, nearly every day
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Low energy levels
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Changes in appetite, including increased cravings for high-carbohydrate foods
- Weight gain
- Feeling sluggish, agitated, hopeless, worthless, or guilty for no apparent reason
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Experienced symptoms can range from mild to severe, and most can be managed with a combination of home remedies and typical treatment plans. If you experience a severe disruption to your ability to function on a daily basis, or experience any of the following complications, consult your doctor:
- Social withdrawal
- School or work problems
- Substance abuse
- A worsening or onset of other mental health issues, including anxiety or eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
How Is SAD Diagnosed?
SAD can be difficult to diagnose definitively, as the symptoms can be linked to a host of other mental health or physical issues. The first step to diagnosis often is a physical exam with your primary care doctor, where underlying physical ailments can either be discovered or ruled out.
Your doctor may order some lab tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) or thyroid testing, as part of your physical examination. Consulting with a psychiatrist or psychologist for an evaluation and screening can be instrumental in determining whether you suffer from SAD or another form of depression.
Quality Light Boxes for SAD Treatment
At The SunBox Company, we offer quality light boxes to aid in the treatment of SAD and other mental and physical ailments. It is our mission to provide affordable, effective solutions to meet the needs of our customers. Contact us today to learn how a light therapy box can help ease symptoms of SAD.Tags: SAD, Winter Blues