Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called SAD, is a form of depression with a seasonal component that begins and ends during a specific season. Mood changes are affected by decreased light in the fall and winter months, leading to symptoms similar to depression. Roughly 5% of Americans have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, and many remain undiagnosed. SAD is much more than the winter blues. It is a debilitating form of depression that can compromise how you feel during colder months when less sunlight is prevalent.
How Do I Know if I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Most people with SAD notice a change in mood and behavior in late fall or early winter, though some may have symptoms extend into the spring and summer months. As with any mental health condition, symptoms vary depending on the individual. Working with a licensed psychiatrist is the first step in diagnosing your disease. Common signs of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Oversleeping or difficulty waking up
- Nausea or changes in appetite
- Weight gain
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Decreased sex drive
- Feeling depressed or hopeless
- Social withdrawal
Suggestions for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you believe you have seasonal affective disorder, it is essential to seek professional advice. A medical professional trained in diagnosing mental diseases can provide the guidance, therapy, and treatment you need to manage SAD properly. In addition to treatment, the following tips are designed to help manage the symptoms of SAD.
When managing stress and the onset of SAD symptoms, nothing beats exercise. Whether it’s a brisk walk outdoors, a light jog on the treadmill, or an intensive weightlifting session at the gym, exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals within the brain to help improve mood and overall life satisfaction.
Get Good Sleep
Sleep is the body’s way of resetting itself each day. Sleep revitalizes the body and mind and helps the body heal and the mind process and store important memories. A routine must be established and followed to get the best possible sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up simultaneously each day while allowing at least 7 hours of quality sleep. Ensuring your sleeping area is comfortable, slightly cool, and free of distractions will increase the likelihood of quality rest.
Laugh as Much as Possible
The adage “laughter is the best medicine” may be more accurate than previously supposed. In recent studies, laughter has been linked to brain process stimulation that helps to counter the adverse effects of the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder.
Load Up on Vitamin D
Humanity’s primary source of vitamin D is the sun. We are exposed to less sunlight during the winter since there are fewer daylight hours compared to the spring, summer, and fall. Since vitamin D is a feel-good chemical that supports increased emotional health and sharper thought processes, it is essential to supplement vitamin D during winter to counteract the lack of sun.
Eating healthy foods provides a building block for establishing good physical and mental health. High-quality fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and premium proteins provide significant energy sources that promote better mental health and overall well-being.
Consult a Licensed Therapist
If you are taking good care of yourself and following the tips outlined in this article and all else fails, please consult a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. We are here to support you through challenging periods in your life that are difficult, if not impossible, to navigate yourself successfully.
West End Consultation Group Provides the Support and Resources to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder
West End Consultation Group’s team of Board-Certified psychiatric professionals provides treatment and support to assist you in overcoming the challenges of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Meet our team of providers, check out our patient resources, or request an appointment today! Depression is a common but serious mental health condition. Please seek help immediately if you have overwhelming or persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.