Many people who have depression experience symptoms year-round. But for some, their feelings of hopelessness may be tied to the seasons. If winter is always an especially difficult time, you may have a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Learn more in the guide below about how to spot the illness, what makes it different than other emotional disorders, and how treatments like individual therapy can make coping easier.
While the exact causes of SAD are unknown, scientists and medical doctors suspect changes in the amount of sunlight can affect a person’s biological clock. The dark days of winter may also reduce mood-regulating chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and melatonin. Young people, women, and those with a family history of depression are most susceptible.
Most cases of seasonal affective disorder occur during the fall and winter months and involve depression, fatigue, and sleeping for long periods of time. It’s also possible to gain weight and desire carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, potatoes, and pasta.
However, it is also possible to experience spring- and summer-related SAD resulting in anxiety, a poor appetite, and insomnia. Those affected may become easily agitated or lose weight without trying. Additional signs include difficulty concentrating, losing interest in activities, and hopelessness. It is possible to become preoccupied with death or feel suicidal.
If you have one or more signs of seasonal affective disorder, it’s time to talk to your primary care doctor, a psychiatrist, or a family counselor. They can confirm your diagnosis and help you to seek the best care plan for your needs. Treatment options for SAD include individual and light therapy, as well as medications designed to produce more serotonin in the brain. Taking a vitamin D supplement can also reduce the emotional symptoms caused by a lack of sunlight.
Those who live farther from the equator, such as residents of Alaska, have a higher chance of developing seasonal affective disorder than those who live in warmer climates. Sondra Sexton-Jones resides in and practices individual and family counseling for anxiety, emotional disorders, and behavior disorders in Juneau. She understands how SAD affects Alaskans and can provide you with symptom relief through one-on-one therapy. To make an appointment to discuss your depression, call her at (907) 586-3313. For information about her professional experience and background, visit her website. Discover tips for overcoming emotional challenges and learn the benefits of counseling on her Facebook page.