SAD, also known as seasonal affective disorder, is a form of depression that only affects those who have it at one time during the year. People who have SAD usually feel sad or depressed during the fall and winter months. A number of people with seasonal affective disorder may simply feel that they’re experiencing the ”winter blues” due to the weather change, but it’s important to take steps to improve one’s mood during a SAD episode. Leaving the signs of the condition untreated could have particularly negative results.
Symptoms of SAD
Feelings of hopelessness and anxiety are common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. People with SAD tend to feel these emotions even when there are plenty of positive things going on around them. Extreme fatigue or loss of energy is also a symptom of SAD; some individuals will also feel extreme heaviness in their arms and legs. Sleeping excessively and withdrawing from friends and family may also be signs that a person is suffering from SAD.
What Causes SAD?
Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes SAD, but it could have a lot to do with a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin is created in the brain and helps to regulate the mood. During seasons in which the sun doesn’t shine as often, the brain may product less serotonin, which can lead to depression.
Changes in the seasons also mean that it gets darker sooner, which can throw off a person’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone the body needs for a balanced mood and restful sleep. The season change can disrupt melatonin balance, which can contribute to SAD.
SAD Risk Factors
Women are more likely to have seasonal affective disorder than men. However, men who have the disorder tend to have more severe symptoms than women. People who have a family history of SAD are also more likely to develop the condition themselves. It is also more likely that people who already have bipolar disorder or have been diagnosed with clinical depression will suffer from SAD in the fall and winter, although there are rare cases in which people develop SAD in spring and summer.
Treatment for SAD
Phototherapy, also called light therapy, is one of the most popular treatments for seasonal affective disorder. The therapy involves sitting next to a box that emits light similar to sunlight. Exposure to the light is said to change the chemical composition of the brain and improve the mood.
Antidepressants are often prescribed for SAD as well. These medications can promote restful sleep and increase energy to help eliminate the condition.
Exercising regularly and letting as much sunlight into the home as possible can also help effectively treat SAD, as both help to promote a sense of well-being.