We live in a winter wonderland – below freezing temperatures, spatters of snow, and hardly any daylight. For many people, it can be rough, to say the least. Each year, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, people’s moods change. They want to sleep more (understandably), begin to lose motivation, and have diet issues. However, these problems all disappear when the sun starts shining more. So what is going on? These are all signs that an individual is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.
According to Wikipedia, more than three million people in the United States suffer from SAD. It is a mood disorder that is generally characterized by depression and that occurs at the same time every year. It has the same statistics as SAD – three million people in the United States suffer from depression each year. However, they are not lumped together. An individual can suffer from SAD and not depression, or can suffer from depression and not SAD. Strangely enough, more deaths from suicide occur in spring rather than winter. It is believed that this occurs because individuals who suffer from SAD fall into a “routine sadness” of sorts and when it becomes warmer and brighter, they are disturbed from their routine. With this disturbance comes the idea that they shouldn’t still be feeling depressed since the winter is gone, but since the effects still linger, they take drastic measures.
How does one avoid the symptoms of SAD? To avoid it in the first place is very challenging. Once it is diagnosed by a medical professional there are many possible steps to take to make sure the disorder remains manageable and under control. Light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy are the most common treatments for SAD. Some less common treatments are working on a mind-body connection, creating home and lifestyle remedies, and alternative medicine. However, for any of these treatments to work, you must make a goal to stick to the chosen coping mechanisms.
For people who already suffer from depression, it can be difficult to distinguish whether or not you are simultaneously suffering from SAD. If you are unsure, you need to schedule an appointment with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist to determine what is happening. Before going to your appointment, make a list of your symptoms, depression patterns, mental and physical health problems, major stressors or life changes, medications you’re taking, and any questions you would like to ask your doctor.