By Olga Zavgorodnya
About this time of year, the days seem to last about 45 minutes. Desire to go outside decreases with each day that passes by. For most of us it is simply the cold weather that keeps us inside; however, for many of us it is so much more than that. Don’t worry you are not alone. What you may be experiencing is Seasonal Depression, also known as SAD (how convenient).
Mainstream psychiatry/psychology define Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD”.
Women are diagnosed four times more often than men; some believe that hormonal regulation and a change in social structure are to blame. Parents need to be aware that younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults and SAD has been reported even in children and teens. Children who spend hours per day outside transition to indoor activity, or, unfortunately, far less activity.
Now, it is critical to understand that mental health is dynamic. We all have ups and downs, caused by relationship changes, weather, energy level, hormones, and myriad factors. Just because one tends to cycle with emotion doesn’t mean that one has a mental disorder. SAD isn’t a true disease, disorder, or disability. It is a normal function of human existence. This doesn’t make the phenomenon any less real or worthy of attention and response. It is just important to understand that one is not doomed to meaningless suffering.
Often, the affected person going through this is unaware of what is happening to them. This is very challenging for family and friends as well because many cannot understand the emotional and physical implications often burdening the depressed family member. Whether you believe you may be the one suffering from SAD, or a friend/family member, it is important to be aware of the warning signs.
10 signs that are common of SAD:
- Depressed mood most of the day nearly every day.
- Loss of interest in things you used to find interesting or enjoyable.
- Changes in sleep patterns—primarily oversleeping.
- Low energy and lethargy.
- Difficulty with concentration and focus.
- Feeling anxious or irritable, or having difficulty managing stress.
- A reluctance to engage with others and a desire to be alone.
- Decreased libido and sexual desire.
- Craving sunlight.
- Craving carbohydrate-rich foods (and resulting weight gain).
Psychology Today published an article entitled, 10 Signs of Seasonal Depression by Guy Winch, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, keynote speaker, and author, who suggested solutions that may help alleviate some of the symptoms that come with SAD. Here are a few:
- Light therapy – helpful in getting vitamin D that we normally produce from sunlight exposure during the Spring and Summer.
- Maintain a steady sleeping schedule – since sleeping patterns are greatly affected and sticking to a strict sleep/wake time helps to maintain a daily routine. Ultimately helps you from sleeping the day away, even if you feel like it.
- Spending time outdoors – it is essential to get up and moving, particularly outside to get as much sunlight as possible. Especially on a sunny day – this is a must.
- Going on vacation – a getaway somewhere warm helps to break up the long cold season and bring the blues down.
- Eating a balanced diet – This is important year-round. Winter time is particularly important to get all your vitamins in to stay healthy mentally physically and emotionally.
It is very important that if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or symptoms of depression get help from a licensed clinical professional who can distinguishes between underlying clinical depression, temporary debilitating depressive symptoms like SAD, and normal, transient blues.
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