Updated: Jan 1
Cold, dark, gloomy… If you’re like me, these are words you would use to describe winter. But no matter how much you hate the season, it probably doesn’t affect your mood significantly—that is, unless you have Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder that affects one’s moods according to the season. Symptoms of SAD usually kick in during autumn and last throughout winter (which is known as winter-pattern SAD). However, some people experience symptoms during spring and summer (AKA summer-pattern SAD).
What are these symptoms? According to NIMH, symptoms include:
- Loss of interest in activities that one usually enjoys
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in sleep patterns (having trouble sleeping, oversleeping, etc.)
- Feeling sluggish or unenergetic
- Suicidal thoughts
Did you know that SAD can be influenced by your geographic location? Studies show that the closer one is to the equator, the less likely they are to get this disorder. This is most likely because seasons are less extreme and do not differ much near the equator. In contrast, places like New York have extremely hot summers and freezing, snowy winters. Also, places closer to the poles have shorter days during winter and longer days during summer.
According to NIMH, there are four main treatments for SAD:
- Light therapy- The patient sits in a room with a bright light for just under an hour every day (usually in the morning). This is done to make up for the sun that they are missing in the winter.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- Patients attend group sessions where they “[focus] on replacing negative thoughts related to the winter season (e.g., about the darkness of winter) with more positive thoughts” (National Institute of Mental Health).
- SAD is often accompanied by a Vitamin D deficiency; however, scientists are unsure if the latter can be a reason for the former. Regardless, SAD patients may take Vitamin D supplements to try to reduce their symptoms.
- One of the main symptoms of SAD is depression, so patients may take antidepressants to prevent future depressive episodes or mitigate their depression/bad moods.
Since it is now December (SAD Awareness Month), here is a link to a website that provides a myriad of great resources for people with SAD (or any depression-related mental illness). If you want more information on SAD or you want to spread awareness about the disorder, visit the links below.
And remember, no matter how much it feels like it sometimes, you are never alone.