Seasonal Affective Disorder: More Than Mourning the End of Summer
Updated: Sep 24
Happy October! Can you believe there are only a few months left of 2018? Now is a great time to revisit your goals and New Year's resolution to determine what areas deserve more attention before we roll into 2019. It's not too late to accomplish what you set out to do this year, make a plan and execute! The Fall reminds us that the only constant in life is change. As you watch the leaves turn from green to their orange-red colors, keep in mind that you too are transforming as each day passes.
It's important for me to include this blog post since the season has changed and it is officially Fall! A time for boots, sweaters, warm drinks, and relief from the blistering heat of Summer. The Fall also marks the beginning of less daylight and for some, a seasonal mood disorder. In fact, 10-20% of Americans report feeling sad or tired when there are fewer hours of daylight in the fall and winter months. This blog will serve the purpose of educating the reader to notice any signs and symptoms they might be experiencing themselves or observing in friends and loved ones - It will also provide additional resources to explore further.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
What Is It?
Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinical type of depression that can come and go with seasonal change. More commonly seen in late fall and early winter and resolving during spring and summer months. SAD can occur in the summer months as well, but frequently seen in the winter. The exact cause is unknown, but there are risk factors that predispose certain populations and individuals to this disorder which are listed below. There are theories about the cause related to decreased light exposure and vitamin or hormone imbalances but further research is needed to confirm those beliefs. SAD is more than just the winter blues and it is a serious condition that should be treated as such.
Signs and Symptoms
Remember, SAD is a form of depression that is recurring in a seasonal pattern. Diagnosis occurs after meeting full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least 2 years.
People who suffer from SAD present with common symptoms of depression including:
Loss of Interest in Usual Activities
Increased Need for Sleep
Craving Carbohydrates and Weight Gain
Women are diagnosed with SAD 4 times more often than men
Family History of other types of depression
Younger Adults have higher risk of SAD than older adults; SAD has also been reported in teens and children
The Four Major Treatments for SAD Include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
These treatments can be used alone or in combination.
Ways To Boost Your Mood:
Light Exposure: get exposure to natural light as much as possible, especially upon waking up
Maintain Your Routine: keep up your everyday activities, do not neglect your hobbies
Exercise: working out releases endorphins naturally that make you feel happier and euphoric
Cut Back On The Sugar: replace sugary snacks for good sources of protein and fiber, there is research that suggests sugar hinders the body's ability to cope with stress and it can worsen anxiety
Get Outdoors: research studies prove that spending time outside can relieve stress, breath in fresh air
Relaxation Techniques: yoga, meditation and progressive relaxation (which promotes body awareness by tensing and relaxing muscle groups in the body) can be of use when feeling down
Plan a Trip: vacation time in a sunny location can boost mood, research also shows that anticipating a trip can cause others to experience pleasure.
Seasonal Affective Disorder - Medline Plus
Depression: What You Need To Know - National Institute of Mental Health
Depression and College Students - National Institute of Mental Health
Seek out appropriate help and utilize the resources above if you feel like this is a disorder you may have experienced or are currently experiencing. Stay on top of your needs and maintenance of your mental health to achieve balance in all areas of your life. Share this resource with friends and family to spread the knowledge and have conversations when necessary, a support system makes a huge difference.