What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

By: Kassandra Lora

Once the seasons change from fall to winter and the days become shorter, some individuals may notice a change in their moods. Some of these mood changes may be a slight feeling of being “down” but other times, these mood changes can be more severe and can have a significant effect on a person. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that usually affects a person once the seasons are changing. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression.” It is not as common for someone to develop SAD symptoms during the spring and summer months, although it is still possible.

Some significant depression symptoms may include:

•           feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

•           losing interest in activities

•           changes in appetite or weight

•           having problems with sleep

•           having low energy

•           feeling worthless or hopeless

•           having difficulty concentrating

•           having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Although Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, to develop the diagnosis of having SAD, you must have the symptoms of major depression or must have some of the symptoms listed above. You must also have these depressive episodes occur to you during a specific season for a least two consecutive years.

Individuals who are more susceptible to developing SAD are more commonly those who live further north. Furthermore, according to the Nation Institute of Mental Health, “SAD is more common in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, especially bipolar II disorder, which is associated with recurrent depressive and hypomanic episodes.” SAD is also more commonly found in women than men.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a severe condition, though scientists cannot understand what exactly causes SAD. Scientists have done the research and have suggested that people with SAD may have reduced serotonin activity, regulating mood. Researchers have also indicated how lack of sunlight in people with SAD can affect their serotonin levels, affecting their mood. Although these are all possible causes and effects which determined why individuals may have SAD it is still unclear if these are the exact reason. However, these causes and effects can be useful when focusing on treatment.Treatments that may help people with SAD include light therapy, psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, and vitamin D.

Speak to your health care provider about which treatment or combination is most suitable for you. If you or someone you know is struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices.

Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Image Source: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2019/03/how-i-learned-cope-seasonal-affective-disorder-grad-school

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