Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is tied to seasons of the year along with the normal signs of depression, including:
- decreased levels of energy
- difficulty concentrating
- fatigue, increase in appetite
- increased desire to be alone
- increased need for sleep
- weight gain
Most people with SAD are depressed only during the late fall and winter and not during the spring or summer. In contrast to SAD, other forms of recurrent depression, like bipolar or unipolar depression, occur independently of the time of year.
Like all types of clinical depression, SAD can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Fortunately, almost all people with SAD can be helped with available therapies.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
It is very important that you do not diagnose yourself with seasonal affective disorder. If you have symptoms of depression, see your doctor for a thorough assessment. A health professional should be the one to determine your level of depression and recommend the right form of treatment.
What can I do to prevent SAD?
If you feel you may suffer from SAD, contact your physician. You want to make sure that these symptoms are not caused by another form of depression or major medical illness. Other types of depression can result in harm and even suicide.
If you have been diagnosed with SAD, here are several ways to prevent the reoccurrence:
- Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it’s very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial.
- During the fall, begin using a light box before you feel the onset of SAD. A light box is a device that mimics outdoor light. You can buy a light box over-the-counter, without a doctor’s prescription — but talk to your doctor about how to use it properly. Light boxes are generally used for 30 minutes or longer each morning, with bright light shining indirectly toward your eyes.
- Eat a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy and sweet foods.
- Try exercising for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
- Seek professional counseling, if needed, during the winter months.
- Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support during winter months.