Millions of individuals suffer from seasonal depression — also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — at any given moment. Seasonal affective disorder is very similar to other major depressive disorders, but it usually manifests around seasonal changes and times of reduced sunlight. Many people have seasonal affective disorder and may not realize it, so if you’re feeling down around the holidays, it’s important to take a look at the symptoms.
SymptomsRead More »
Loss of interest: Activities that were once fun and enjoyable come to feel like a chore. Practicing the guitar is just another thing to do. Instead of being a source of excitement, that ski trip looks more like a list of things that could go wrong. Sleeping in bed and half-watching TV or a streaming service sounds more appealing than going outside or doing anything adventurous.
Fear of obligations: Everyday tasks such as going to work, picking up groceries, and household chores become the subject of dread. While these duties may have been easy before, individuals suffering with seasonal affective disorder may find normal aspects of their routine to be imposing obstacles. The willpower just isn’t there, and neglecting these duties becomes more acceptable. As more tasks are neglected, it becomes harder and harder to go about a normal routine.
Difficulty sleeping: Many people with seasonal affective disorder have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Likewise, it’s very common for sufferers of SAD to sleep too much and have difficulty getting out of bed. After a few days of either oversleeping or sleeping too little, the body has even more difficulty regulating its sleep hormones, and proper sleep becomes even more difficult. These changes in sleep patterns can cause fatigue, and that often makes other symptoms even worse.
Changes in eating habits: It’s common for depressed individuals to have drastic changes in appetite. This may cause an individual to overeat or eat too little. Either way, meal times tend to be sporadic and unpredictable. The change in eating-schedule can cause hormonal changes that exacerbate sleep problems, changes in mood, fatigue, and overall physical health.
Hopelessness: Individuals suffering with SAD often feel like it will never get better. There’s a sense that there is no point in moving forward. It’s very common to have thoughts of suicide. It may become normal to disregard regular safety precautions. Things such as buckling your seat-belt just don’t seem as important. If this describes you in any way, please see a medical professional immediately!
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
While there is no singular cause, medical professionals tend to agree that many factors of SAD are based on a change in sunlight. Our bodies operate on something called a circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is basically the body’s 24-hour clock for serotonin and melatonin production. These natural chemicals affect our mood and sleep, respectively. Furthermore, circadian rhythms also play a part in appetite and other bodily functions.
As the seasons change, the sun rises and sets at different times. In winter, days are shorter, and nights are longer. This confuses the body, and it can put our hormonal production out of order. When the hormones relating to appetite, happiness, and sleep are messed with, it can really affect your mood, appetite, and energy. Those who live far north or south are at a higher risk for SAD due to the fact that there are fewer hours of daylight in these regions.
People with a family history of seasonal affective disorder and other depressive disorders are at higher risk for SAD. Individuals who already suffer with a mental disorder may see their symptoms become worse with seasonal changes.
Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you’ve been diagnosed with SAD and are receiving treatment, here is what you can do to stay healthy and keep your spirits up:
Scheduling: Try to stick to consistent mealtimes and a normal sleep schedule. SAD is largely hormonal, and eating and sleeping on a regular schedule helps ensure that your hormonal production is balanced and regular. Keeping a journal and drafting a schedule are a great way to stay on top of your sleep and eating patterns.
Exercise: When you work out, your body releases a flow of happy-chemicals called endorphins. Walks, hikes, runs, weightlifting, sports, other cardio — anything will do the trick if you’re consistent about it! Exercise also helps your sleep and appetite. You don’t have to be benching 500 pounds to see the benefits of consistent physical exertion.
Going outside: Seasonal lack of sunlight can lead to a lack of Vitamin D. This vitamin helps regulate mood and combat depression. There’s plenty of sunlight outside. While it may be somewhat chilly, even a short walk is better than nothing, and getting outside allows you to get out of your own head for a little bit.
Individuals diagnosed with SAD are often prescribed antidepressants or therapy. Other treatments may be prescribed at the doctor’s discretion. Once SAD is determined, patients are almost always given treatment options with a single visit!
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms stated above, don’t wait! Seek treatment as soon as possible. Nobody should have to deal with SAD alone, and medical professionals will put you on the track to recovery! Everything is so much better without SAD, so you owe it to yourself to see a doctor and get the most out of life!
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