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It's Not Just the Autumn Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

As the seasons change, lots of other things begin to change, too – including our emotions. Believe it or not, the weather can cause our emotions to fluctuate, making it difficult to feel grounded. Many people experience these changes in their mood, especially when the weather turns from warm to cold.


When these changes in mood start to interfere with your ability to function in daily life, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While the reasoning behind SAD isn’t exactly known, people tend to start feeling down when there is a distinct change in the weather. Many people experience these feelings when the weather starts getting cooler and the days get shorter. However, scientists do believe that the way you sleep, the amount of melatonin in your body, and how you respond to changes in light affects your risk of developing this type of depression.


Types of SAD

There are two subtypes of SAD:

  • Winter-Pattern - when a person becomes depressed during colder weather or winter months.

  • Summer-Pattern - when a person becomes depressed during warmer weather or during spring or summer.


SAD is more common in some places in the world compared to others, especially those with limited daylight hours.


Symptoms

The symptoms of SAD are extremely similar to major depressive disorder (MDD). Some of the things you might experience:

  • Feeling depressed for most of the day for a significant period of time

  • Low energy

  • Trouble sleeping (either oversleeping or undersleeping)

  • Loss of interest in activities or enjoyable things

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, or agitation

  • Having trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Social withdrawal


Getting a Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with SAD, you have to experience all the symptoms of MDD during winter or summer months for at least 2 years. Researchers have also found that people with a SAD tend to consult their primary care physician more frequently than people without it. It can be difficult to know what is a symptom of SAD and symptoms of general health, especially when season changes often cause people to have more allergies.


It’s also common for people to simply have a hard time adjusting to season changes. So, even if you don’t have a SAD diagnosis, you still may feel on edge, uneasy, or even depressed when change happens.


Treatments

While there are some unique ways to treat SAD, like light exposure therapy, psychotherapy is the most frequently used treatment. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help you work through some of the SAD symptoms that can cause you distress. Specific therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, is a great tool to help deal with SAD symptoms.


In addition to seeking help from a mental health professional or medical professional, there are also some remedies that you can do at home to help improve your mood.

  • Spend as much time outside in the light as possible. Let light into your home.

  • Move your body and get exercise. 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is recommended. Even if you don’t have time to go to a gym, you can do light cleaning, take a walk, or stretch.

  • Stick to a schedule. The more you can establish a routine, the better.


Kentucky services has many qualified mental health professionals that can help you with seasonal affective disorder, along with anything other mental health struggles you might be experiencing. Contact us today for an appointment!



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