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Seasonal Affective Disorder (Seasonal Depression)


Written by Emily Santrac

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a form of depression that relates to changes in the seasons. People with SAD feel depressed during specific seasons, and fine during other seasons. Most people with SAD feel their symptoms at the beginning of fall until the end of winter, but SAD may also cause depression during the spring and/or early summer, and then resolved in winter months. Many people feeling symptoms of SAD may brush it off as “winter blues” and try to ignore it until warmer months arrive, but SAD should be acknowledged for what it is: a real mental health struggle.


It’s important to be able to recognize if you or a friend are struggling, especially during colder months, when feelings may be more difficult to deal with. You might be confused and asking yourself questions such as “Why do I feel fine one month and completely terrible the next?” or “Why is my friend upbeat during the summer and moody once fall starts?” This blog will attempt to bring attention to this disorder, since so many people are struggling during these months without knowing why.


How Do I Know if I Have SAD?

The best way to know if you have struggle with seasonal depression is to speak with a licensed professional. They can help you work through your feelings during these difficult times.


While SAD can take various forms, and looks different in everyone, here are some of the symptoms of SAD. Knowing these symptoms can help you identify whether or not you or a friend may have SAD. This can further push you to get the help you need, or bring support to those you are close to.


Symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed for almost the entire day during certain months

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Having trouble with sleep

  • Low energy

  • Having difficulty focusing

  • Feeling unusually agitated

There are also certain symptoms that tend to be winter-specific or summer-specific.


Winter-Specific:

  • Weight gain

  • Oversleeping

  • Overeating

  • Withdrawal from social events


Summer-Specific:

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Poor appetite

  • Weight loss

What are Some Strategies to Help with SAD Symptoms?

Talking to your therapist, or health provider, is the best way to know for sure what treatments work best for you.


Common treatments for SAD include:

  • Light Therapy

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

  • Medication

  • Vitamin D

  • Make time for exercise

  • Reduce stress as much as possible


Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real disorder, and don’t brush it off if you are struggling. Please reach out to those close to you and a mental health professional, such as a therapist or doctor. Remember, it is never your fault, and you deserve help, whether it be a conversation or medication. Any form of SAD is valid and should be acknowledged. SAD affects an estimated 10 million Americans, which is 5% of the population. You are not alone.


Sources

Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder? (n.d.). LeBaur HealthCare. https://www.lebauer.com/2020/12/11/do-you-have-seasonal-affective-disorder-learn-the-signs-and-treatment-options-during-the-pandemic/

How to cope with SAD or seasonal affective disorder. (n.d.). https://www.npr.org/2020/10/23/927135639/coping-with-sad-or-seasonal-affective-disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder Impacts 10 Million Americans. Are You One of Them? (n.d.). Boston University. https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/seasonal-affective-disorder/

What to Know About Seasonal Depression. (n.d.). https://www.nytimes.com/explain/2022/seasonal-depression#what-are-the-best-ways-to-manage-seasonal-depression

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