Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern to its onset and remission. Because the symptoms of SAD are typically more pronounced and noticeable during the winter, it is frequently referred to as “winter depression” too. Some SAD sufferers could have symptoms in the summer and feel better in the winter. While others will experience symptoms in the winter and be healthy in the summer.
- A form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) effects in particular seasons or times of the year.
- The signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include a persistently depressed mood, loss of interest in or enjoyment of routine activities, irritability, feeling tired and lethargic during the day.
- SAD is frequently linked to less sunshine exposure during the autumn and winter days, despite the fact that the true cause of the condition is unknown.
- Use a dawn simulator to help you prepare your mind to be psychologically healthy before you go out into outdoor settings.
- Prioritizing your social engagements and incorporating aromatherapy into your daily routine are two ways to combat SAD.
- SAD can also be treated effectively by letting the sunshine in.
- Eat more vitamin D to lessen your chance of experiencing depressive symptoms.
- If the symptoms are severe, you should consult a psychiatrist.
This blog discusses in detail seasonal affective disorder, its symptoms, causes, and possible ways to deal with it.
About Seasonal Affective Disorder
Depression is a persistently sad state that interferes with daily life. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs throughout specific seasons or times of the year.
If you have SAD, you will likely experience depression specifically during some seasons or due to a particular sort of weather. You may have it in the winter or the summer.
It is typical to be impacted by the weather and changing seasons. For instance, you might discover that the weather affects your mood or energy levels, or that your eating or sleeping habits shift as the temperature changes.
But if your emotions are getting in the way of your daily activities, it can be an indication of depression. And if they consistently recur during the same season, medical professionals may diagnose this as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “seasonal depression.”
Myth: Seasonal affective disorder only occurs during winter.
Fact: Although rare, SAD may also occur in spring or summer.
What can be some possible symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can include
- Persistently depressed mood
- Loss of enjoyment or interest in routine activities
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and unworthiness
- Feeling lethargic (lack of energy) and sleepy during the day
- Sleeping longer than usual and finding it difficult to wake up in the morning
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
- Trouble concentrating
- Decreased sex drive
These symptoms can be severe for some people and significantly affect their day-to-day activities. You may book a meeting with a psychiatrist to help you in dealing with this scenario.
What are the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Although the real cause of SAD is unknown, it is frequently connected to less sunshine exposure during the autumn and winter days.
The fundamental hypothesis is that a lack of sunshine may prevent the functioning of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain, which may have an impact on your body in various ways as discussed below.
- Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite, and sleep; lack of sunlight may result in lower levels of serotonin, which is linked to feelings of depression.
- Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it at higher-than-normal levels in absence of sunlight.
- The body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) gets disturbed as your body uses sunlight to time important functions, like when you wake up or sleep.
- Furthermore, it’s also plausible that some people are genetically predisposed to SAD.
How to Deal with Seasonal Depression?
Now, let’s discuss the possible strategies to deal with seasonal depression.
1. Make your mind ready to be psychologically healthy beforehand
- According to psychologist Kim Burgess, PhD, founder of the Pediatric Psychology Center in Rockville, Maryland scheduling time for mood-enhancing activities on a regular basis can help people feel both physically and psychologically healthier.
- It’s best to get yourself ready for the season in which you may feel depressed i.e. winter or autumn, advises Dr. Burgess.
- Do fun things, make friend group chats and arrange outings, pick pleasant hobbies, and become involved in clubs or community service.
- Regular participation in these activities is far simpler than trying to start over after the season has already set in.
2. You may take help from using a dawn simulator
- Some SAD sufferers may benefit from dawn simulators. These gadgets function as alarm clocks, but instead of immediately waking you up with a loud beep or music, they emit light that gradually intensifies, precisely like the sun.
- Although there are numerous versions of dawn simulators, the finest ones employ full-spectrum light, which is most like natural sunshine.
- In a study published in July 2015 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers discovered that dawn simulators were just as helpful as light treatment for people with mild SAD.
3- One way to deal with SAD is to prioritize your social activities
Treating SAD by keeping yourself busy during the winter season, engaging in social activities, and being proactive is the best course of action.
Why are social activities crucial for people with SAD?
Research has shown a direct link between social isolation and depression. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people experienced isolation in quarantine.
The effects of being isolated during the Covid pandemic were discussed in a recent review paper.
According to that review, implied loneliness can have long-term psychological effects on people, including symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
So according to Burgess, a psychiatrist
- In times of greater isolation, it’s critical to come up with innovative strategies to maintain social connections.
- Spending time in a neighborhood park with family and friends, engaging in the yard or outdoor games, or taking walks when the weather permits can help you with your mental health.
- There are alternative ways to socialize if the winter’s darkness, cold, and COVID-19 force you to spend more time indoors than you would like.
- You can FaceTime friends and extended family members or arrange Zoom talks with them when it’s too chilly to be outside or dangerous to travel.
4- You can add aromatherapy to your daily routine
SAD sufferers may also benefit from aromatherapy, which uses essential oils for therapeutic purposes.
Essential oils lower symptoms of depression
- According to a study that appeared in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in June 2020, essential oils may be able to help minimize the signs and symptoms of depression as well as other psychological problems like anxiety and sleep issues. Book an appointment with the best neurologists for sleep problems.
- According to Dr. Kalayjian, essential oils may be able to affect the region of the brain that regulates moods as well as the body’s internal clock, which affects sleep and hunger, when it comes to SAD in particular.
Combine aromatherapy with another soothing activity
- Even if there is not much research on aromatherapy, utilizing essential oils could be an easy and secure technique to enhance mental health, especially when combined with another calming activity like taking a bath or spending time with friends by candlelight.
Body oils, fragrance sticks, and jewelry made of absorbent materials to which you may apply essential oils are the safest ways to utilize aromatherapy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
5. Another effective way to deal with SAD is to let the sunshine in
- You should try to spend as much time outside during the day as you can if you suffer from seasonal depression or winter SAD to make the most of the available light.
- When it’s freezing outside, bundle up and go for a walk around the block at midday or right after since the sun will be at its brightest.
- Keep your blinds open when inside to bring in as much natural light as possible.
- If you can, locate your desk near a source of natural light if you are working remotely.
- Yale Medicine suggests that because indoor illumination is significantly less bright than outside lighting, therefore try to spend time as much as possible in the sunlight.
6. Sticking to a schedule can help you to lessen symptoms of SAD
- SAD sufferers frequently struggle to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
- The benefits of a regular schedule including better sleep and managing time to get up early and sleeping at the appropriate times can help with seasonal depression symptoms.
- Maintaining a routine will also expose you to light at regular periods of the day, according to Pierce.
- Additionally, studies show that many SAD sufferers experience weight gain throughout the winter so managing a diet routine can help you to stop overeating too. You may also take help from a nutritionist to get a diet plan for yourself.
7. One of the best ways to ease symptoms of SAD is doing exercise
- Exercise can help with SAD as it does with other types of depression. According to research, exercise can also help prevent the weight gain associated with SAD.
- The best activity for easing SAD symptoms is doing outdoor exercises. However, if it’s too chilly or snowy to exercise outside, try using a treadmill, stationary cycle, or elliptical equipment that is placed close to a window at home or the gym.
- If you are uncomfortable going outside for exercise due to cold weather, then watching instructional workout videos online from groups may help you. And you can still work up a sweat at home.
8. Get Enough Vitamin D to decrease the likelihood of depressive symptoms
- A lack of vitamin D may increase the likelihood of developing depressive symptoms.
- Low levels of vitamin D are frequent in patients with SAD, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
- This is due to either inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D or inadequate sun exposure.
- According to the NCCIH, experts are unsure as to whether taking vitamin D supplements can lessen the symptoms of SAD or not. But make sure you get enough sunlight during the day and you include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet.
9. You may consider taking antidepressants in case of severe symptoms of SAD
- According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, prescription antidepressants may help you recover from seasonal depression if light therapy and psychotherapy are unable to fully relieve your symptoms, however, you should avoid taking any drugs that could cause you to fall asleep.
- According to the experts, you will normally need to take antidepressants from autumn till spring.
- It is advised to you that when SAD symptoms first appear visit a psychiatrist for a prescription before the symptoms worsen.
10. Last but not least, you should talk with your doctor
- A mental health practitioner can help you in a better way to diagnose and deal with SAD.
- According to Dr. Pierce, several screening questions might assist in identifying whether or not someone is depressed.
- Your doctor will be able to distinguish between SAD and another type of depression.
- Seeing a specialist can help you overcome SAD if you have it.
Many people have heard of SAD, but that doesn’t mean they comprehend what it is or how it affects you. It does not imply that you “simply feel a little down in winter.”
It can have a similar impact on your life as other types of depression and can be brought on by a variety of events or be exacerbated by them.
People’s lack of understanding might be irritating and upsetting, but it’s vital to keep in mind that you are not alone in this. To ensure your mental health, you should consult a psychologist right away.
1- Who is at risk for SADS?
People who have a genetic predisposition towards depression and who had a mental illness at some point like bipolar disorder may have a risk of developing SAD. Moreover, if you have any of these illnesses, your SAD symptoms may get worse throughout certain seasons.
2- Does seasonal affective disorder get worse with age?
SAD typically begins in adulthood. Age increases the risk of SAD too. SAD is uncommon in people under the age of 20.
3- What happens if seasonal affective disorder goes untreated?
If left untreated, SAD may lead to issues at home, at work or school, and in relationships. Furthermore, the treatment for other diseases like bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, anxiety, and depression may also be complicated by its presence.