• Do You Suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

    by Caroline Ryther
    on Jul 23rd, 2018

Have you ever stopped to wonder why when days get shorter, the weather colder, and sunlight scarcer, a lot of people begin to feel a bit disappointed and depressed? With so many reasons to love wintertime, including snow, the Christmas holidays, and hot cocoa, why do our moods go down once the winter period starts?

The answer lies in human physiology—our bodies require sunlight, which we don’t get enough of during fall and winter months, and the lack of it directly affects our circadian rhythms, i.e. internal biological clocks and how we feel. For some people, these mood swings come and go, and don’t leave any long-term consequences, but for others, they can easily turn into a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

What Exactly Is SAD?

Although the term seasonal affective disorder first appeared in scientific literature in 1845, it did not get an actual clinical name until the early 1980s. Nowadays, SAD affects 4 to 6 percent of people in the US, usually young adults (more commonly females) between 20 and 30 years of age.

Like we already mentioned, seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder that typically strikes in the fall or early winter, and ends in the spring. It is sometimes referred to as winter depression, although there have been cases of people feeling like this in the summer, too.

As mentioned, SAD occurs when our bodies don’t receive enough of natural light (sunlight), which is responsible for the amount of serotonin delivered to our brain. The more our serotonin levels drop, the higher are the chances for us to experience depression, seeing that serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms and Risk Factors

SAD symptoms are similar to depression symptoms, the only difference being that they appear as winter approaches and disappear during springtime. In most cases, these symptoms come back around the same time each year, but the severity and characteristics depend on the person experiencing this disorder.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include (but are not limited to):

Just like with all diseases and disorders, there are some factors that may increase your risk of SAD:

Treatment Options for SAD Patients

If you believe that you’re experiencing more than your regular “winter blues”, be sure to consult with your doctor or mental health professional. In order to diagnose SAD and determine the best course of action, your doctor will most likely do a physical exam, lab tests, and psychological evaluation.

When it comes to treatment options, some experts believe that by simply exposing yourself to sunlight more often, you’ll be able to alleviate SAD symptoms. Others recommend that SAD should be treated like any other form of depression, with the right combination of therapy and antidepressant medication.

Some of the most common forms of seasonal affective disorder therapy include:

If you believe that you might be suffering from SAD or know a loved one who might have this disorder, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Best and his Neuroscience team. They will determine the best course of action for your particular situation and set you on the road to getting better.

 

Schedule a consultation:

Phone: 847-306-8938

Email: pm@mind.md

Author Caroline Ryther

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