Seasonal Affective Disorder, also fittingly referred to as the acronym SAD, is a type of depression that occurs with the seasons. In fact, its onset and conclusion can easily be matched up with the same seasons every year. Those who suffer from SAD know when to expect it and how long it will last.
While SAD can come during any season, most individuals impacted with the disorder experience symptoms during the fall and they will last through the winter months. Less frequently, however, some people experience SAD during the spring and summer months.
There is no definite answer as to how people becoming depressed during the various seasons, but researchers are confident that light plays a huge role. Of course, this could be too much light or not enough. See, the light from the sun is known to give us Vitamin D, help our body process vital nutrients and minerals, as well as affect our circadian rhythm.
Being in recovery, Seasonal Affective Disorder is definitely something you should understand and take precautions against. Here’s what you need to know.
You Can Be Affected
Anyone can be affected by SAD. Before a formal classification of this disorder, the symptoms were commonly referred to as simply having the winter blues. Research shows that this is much deeper than a moody attitude.
There is no set factor that can pinpoint whether or not you will suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, studies have shown that it is more prevalent:
- Among adults, with a decline risk after the age of 50.
- Among women, by an approximate 8 to 1 ratio!
- In northern states/cities with heavy winter weather.
Please note that this is typical data. It does not mean that a 65-year old man in Texas cannot find himself with a case of SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms
When it comes to Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is important that you know the symptoms. After all, if you don’t know what to look for, then how will you know how to spot it – or seek treatment? Because SAD can occur in two different seasonal times – and with different symptoms – let’s break it down a bit.
Fall and Winter SAD symptoms may be:
- Cravings for carbohydrates.
- Weight gain.
- Frequently oversleeping.
- Low energy/lethargy.
- Heaviness in arms and legs.
- Lack of interest in normal activities.
- Feelings of despair and/or worthlessness.
- Irritability and persistent low/bad
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Spring and Summer SAD symptoms may be:
- Difficulty falling – and staying – asleep.
- Lack of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Irritability and negative mood.
- Increased anxiety.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a case of Major Depression, but it does fall in the same family. Therefore, if you have a history of depression – or a family history – you may want to keep your eyes peeled for this condition. Having another mental illness may also increase your risk.
A few things that may contribute to SAD are:
- Seasonal changes, such as working a seasonal job or increased seasonal stress.
- Associations with previous trauma or grief. If you associate a past pain with a particular season, this could increase your risk of developing SAD.
- Medical issues, such as seasonal allergies or arthritis that are intensified due to the cold, then you could find yourself falling into a type of depressed mood.
When You Should See a Doctor
No one knows your body better than you. And, sure, everyone wants to stay cuddled and cozy in bed on a cold day. And, with all the holiday goodies, many people overeat.
But, when you start to feel as though you can step away from it, then you may have a problem on your hands. Your symptoms and feelings should not cause disruptions within your life. When they do, it is time to see the doctor. This is especially true if you begin having suicidal thoughts.
Your doctor will likely ask you a variety of questions and do some lab tests. This is important to make sure that your symptoms aren’t stemming from an underlying cause, such as a thyroid condition.
Here’s What You Can Do
To help battle symptoms of SAD or to try to prevent it, there are a few things that may help. There is no guarantee, so medical attention should always be sought if you know you aren’t feeling right.
- Get lots of light. If you reside in an area that doesn’t often see the sun in the wintertime, consider the use of light therapy. This should be used for 20- to 60-minutes every single day.
- Eat well. Avoiding cravings for carbs and stick to a healthy, whole food diet full of rich, leafy greens.
- Exercise. Whether indoors or out, moving your body can get your blood flowing and your body revved up. Even when you don’t feel like doing it, do it. You will feel better afterward.
- Talk to your therapist. If you don’t have one, find one. Communicating and addressing the feelings you are having is a great way to manage SAD symptoms.
How It Can Impact Your Sobriety
Being in recovery and experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder is incredibly dangerous. Too often, as a means of dealing with the disorder, people turn to a substance. When you aren’t in a healthy state of mind, this may be an easy opportunity for a relapse.
It is imperative that you do what you can to keep yourself healthy and whole so that you can maintain a positive, strong outlook on your sobriety. Being educated on the symptoms of SAD and focused on yourself and the way you feel, you are better equipped to seek help should this disorder sneak into your life.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a serious mental health disorder affects many individuals – especially in the fall and winter months. If you are one of them, then by knowing the signs, learning how to care for your health, and having a support system available, you should be able to obtain the help you need.