What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Many of us have heard about the wintertime blues or maybe have even experienced it. The wintertime blues are actually referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Keep reading to learn more about what it’s like and what treatments are available for it.
Could you be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that fluctuates along with seasonal changes. While this can occur during any of the seasonal changes, it is most common among the winter months.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
SAD has the same symptoms as major depression, the difference being that SAD only occurs among specific seasons (for at least two years for diagnostic criteria).
Symptoms of Major Depression include:
Feelings of depression throughout the majority of almost each day
Feeling worthless and/or hopeless
Lack of pleasure
Thoughts of death and/or suicide
SAD during the winter can also show:
Overeating, especially carbohydrates
Lack of socialization
While less common, SAD over the summer includes:
Lack of appetite
Anxiety or restlessness
Who is the most at risk for developing seasonal affective disorder?
Living far from the equator
Being a younger adult
Already having depression or bipolar disorder
Other people in your family have SAD
While we don’t know exactly why SAD occurs, three potential causes have been considered:
People with SAD have difficulty with regulating serotonin (a neurotransmitter in our brain that plays a major role in promoting a positive mood).
People with SAD produce too much melatonin (a hormone that regulates wakefulness and promotes sleep), which makes them feel overly tired.
People with SAD may produce less vitamin D, which may interact with serotonin.
How is seasonal affective disorder treated?
There are four primary treatments that can be used to alleviate SAD.
These treatments include:
Psychotherapy - (AKA therapy). Working with a trained clinician can help you understand more about what’s going on, and how you can go about making steps to overcome it and cope with things that come your way. Click here to meet our team and get set up with one of our AWESOME clinicians today!
Light Therapy - Sitting with a light box each morning for approximately a half hour to an hour per day can provide you with additional light that we miss out on during the winter. This can help to increase energy and mood. Many users of light therapy start in the fall and continue to the spring.
Vitamin D - This falls in line with the vitamin D theory. While vitamin D supplementation is not currently considered a treatment for SAD, there is some research (although mixed) that indicates that vitamin D may provide the same benefits as light therapy.
Antidepressants - Medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, have evidence to be effective for the treatment of SAD. Antidepressants are most effective when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. Please be aware that antidepressants do come with risks and are not for everyone. Caution and education on the topic are necessary prior to beginning the use of antidepressants. **Note: We do not prescribe antidepressants at our practice**