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How to Recognize and Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder

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You know when it starts to get colder outside, and suddenly the sun is already set at 5 o’clock, and you’re thinking, “Gosh, should I just go to bed already?” We know, it happens to lots of us! We feel less energy, more irritable, and even gain a few pounds out of nowhere. Well, you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Seasonal Affective Disorder”(SAD) is identified as a type of depression. SAD typically begins and ends at about the same time each year, starting around October and ending between April and May. 

People with SAD experience symptoms commonly found in people with depression, such as:

  • An overwhelming feeling of sadness.
  • Disinterest in hobbies you used to enjoy.
  • Lethargy or fatigue.
  • Insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight.
  • Feeling irritable or frustrated.
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair.

Why Do Some People Experience SAD?

Science has not yet defined why only certain people experience SAD symptoms. However, they believe some factor that could contribute to these symptoms could be:

  • Circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth roughly every 24 hours. Reduced natural light during the colder months can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause sleeping problems, which can result in depression. 
  • Serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter to stabilize our mood, feelings, and happiness. It allows brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate, affecting your sleep, appetite, and digestion. Scientists believe that our serotonin levels are reduced when we experience less natural light.
  • Melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that impacts our sleep schedule. Reduced sleep impacts our mood and fatigue. 

 

Avoiding SAD

Not to worry, seasonal affective disorder has several treatment options! It’s highly recommended that anyone with existing depression speak with their psychiatrist about their dosage and symptoms before trying home remedies for SAD. SAD can be treated with standard antidepressants such as Bupropion XL, speaking with a therapist to alleviate feelings of frustration or sadness, and sunlight exposure/light therapy to correct your circadian rhythm. Speaking with a psychiatrist about anti-depressants and therapy can be very effective in alleviating SAD symptoms. Scientists also recommend going outside early in the morning to increase their sunlight exposure prior to starting your day to feel less fatigue, fuzzy brain, and lethargy. However, not everyone can experience sunlight every day, which is why light therapy boxes were invented. Light therapy or phototherapy is exposure to an artificial light source that acts as sunlight. People who suffer from SAD use light therapy early in the morning right when they wake up, to aid in adjusting their circadian rhythm. (Learn more about light therapy from the Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604.)

Although there are several remedies to seasonal affective disorder, we encourage everyone to seek medical assistance when you experience symptoms of depression. If you’re interested in finding out if you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, take our quiz below. https://quiz.tryinteract.com/#/5fb2d15a641d8000169ff2c7

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