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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? How can you cope with it?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? How can you cope with it?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often known as seasonal depression or winter sadness, is a kind of depression. This condition is classified as a kind of depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern.

Image Credits: Comanche County Memorial Hospital

SAD patients have mood swings and symptoms that are comparable to depression. The symptoms normally appear during the fall and winter months, when there is less sunshine, then improve once spring arrives. In the United States, January and February are the most challenging months for those with SAD. While it is uncommon, some people suffer from SAD during the summer.

SAD isn’t merely a case of the “winter blues.” The symptoms can be stressful and overpowering, and they can make it difficult to operate on a regular basis. It is, however, treatable. SAD affects roughly 5% of individuals in the United States, and it lasts for about 40% of the year. It is more prevalent in women than in males.

Shorter daylight hours and less sunshine in the winter have been related to a metabolic imbalance in the brain. People’s biological internal clocks, or circadian rhythms, alter when the seasons change, causing them to be out of sync with their daily routine. People who live far from the equator, where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter, are more likely to suffer from SAD.

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Symptoms and Diagnosis

Fatigue, even with too much sleep, and weight gain related to overeating and carbohydrate cravings are common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD symptoms range from mild to severe and include a number of symptoms that are comparable to those of major depression, such as:

  • Sadness is a gloomy state of mind
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in previously appreciated activities
  • Changes in appetite; often, you eat more and crave carbs.
  • Sleep patterns change; most people sleep too much.
  • Despite getting more sleep, you’re losing energy or becoming more tired.
  • Increased involuntary physical activity (e.g., difficulty to sit still, pacing, and hand wringing) or slower motions or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others)
  • Feeling worthless or remorseful
  • Thinking, focusing, or making judgments are difficult.
  • Suicide or death thoughts

SAD can strike at any age, although it is most common between the ages of 18 and 30.

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SAD can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant drugs, talk therapy, or a combination of these treatments. While symptoms will usually resolve on their own when the seasons change, therapy can help symptoms improve more rapidly.

Sitting in front of a light treatment box that emits a bright light (while filtering out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays) is used for light therapy. During the winter months, it normally takes 20 minutes or more every day, usually first thing in the morning. Within one or two weeks of starting treatment, the majority of patients see some benefits from light therapy. Treatment is frequently continued through the winter to preserve the benefits and avoid recurrence. Because symptoms are expected to reappear in the late fall, some persons may start light treatment in the early fall to avoid symptoms.

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SAD can be efficiently treated with talk therapy, particularly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). The type of antidepressant most typically used to treat SAD is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Increased exposure to sunshine may assist some persons with SAD symptoms. Spending time outside, for example, or setting your house or workplace so that you are exposed to a window during the day are also good ideas. (However, skin cancer can be increased by exposure to UV rays from the sun.) and you should discuss the risks and advantages with your doctor.) Taking care of your overall health and wellness can also assist—regular exercise, proper food, getting adequate sleep, and remaining active and connected (via volunteer work, group activities, and social gatherings) can all help.

Seek the advice of a competent medical expert if you suspect you are suffering from SAD symptoms. It’s critical to rule out any medical conditions that might be generating symptoms, just as it is with other types of depression. In the context of hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, and other viral illnesses, SAD might be misdiagnosed, thus careful examination is essential. A mental health expert can assess the problem and talk about treatment choices with you. SAD is a treatable disorder with the correct therapy.

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