Do you think you may have seasonal affective disorder? Read on to learn the top ten signs of seasonal affective disorders.
Now that the holidays are over and much of the country is into the thick of winter, you might be feeling down and out. If you are one of the 10 million people in the US who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, you know what this feels like.
The winter blues are to be expected, as in most parts of the country the weather is cold and there is a lack of sunlight due to shorter days, but when the blues persist for an extended period of time, it might be more than just the blues.
Keep reading to learn more about seasonal affective disorder, whether you are at risk, the signs, and how to treat it.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression which happens around the same time each year. It usually occurs when the seasons change in the fall. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and sunlight is at a premium in many areas of the country.
It’s not out of the question for SAD to occur during the spring or summer, but it overwhelmingly affects people in the fall and winter. It’s also more common among women, those with a family history of depression, those who live farther away from the equator, and younger people.
To be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet the criteria for major depression, which occurs during specific seasons, for at least two years. If you find yourself consistently feeling depressed as the seasons change and you have the following symptoms, it might be time to talk to your doctor about SAD and how you can treat it.
Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you have any of these symptoms coinciding with the change of seasons, you may have SAD.
- Daily Depression
Depression which is present almost every day, all day. Feeling apathetic, hopeless, and like you can’t engage in basic tasks (like taking care of yourself or your home) could mean you’re depressed.
- Low Energy
Part of your daily depression includes a lack of energy and general lethargy. If you can’t get out of bed, feel like taking a shower or getting out of the house will take all the energy you have, or if you just want to lay on the couch and avoid any activity, you might be depressed.
- Changes in Appetite
Seasonal depression often comes with overeating, particularly of carbohydrate-rich, starchy, “comfort” foods. These comfort foods are often associated with cold weather and comforting yourself with food.
The problem is we often overeat these foods which are high in carbs and starch, resulting in weight gain.
- A Desire to be Alone and Avoiding Others
Being irritable and as a result, wanting to avoid others to be alone is a sign of depression. If you are normally a very social person and have no desire for interaction with others, you might be depressed.
- Difficulty Concentrating and Focusing
Depression often comes with difficulty focusing and concentration on tasks. This could impact your ability to do your job, go to school, or even do things like reading or watching TV.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns
The changes in sleep patterns due to SAD vary. Some people who experience this find they oversleep and have difficulty staying awake and getting out of bed. Others find their sleep is disturbed and they wake up extremely early and are unable to fall back asleep.
- Loss of Interest in Things You Used to Enjoy
If you’re usually interested in exercise, cooking, reading, seeing friends, or any other hobbies that occupy your time and find you have little to no interest in doing any of those things, you may be depressed.
Depression is often coupled with tension and the inability to handle any kind of stress, even minor stressors you can usually handle easily. Being anxious about simple things, or even big things, you can’t really control could indicate depression.
- Decreased Libido
SAD can diminish your libido to the point that it’s non-existent. When you are depressed, you may lose your sex drive altogether.
- Craving Sun Light
This is particularly relevant when you live far from the equator (think the northern part of the United States) and have very limited sunlight during certain parts of the year. The sunniest cities in the country are located in southern states while the cities with the least amount of sun are in the northwest, Midwest, and northeast.
How to Treat SAD
The good news is you can treat SAD, even if you are stuck in a winter state, far away from the equator, and only see the sun a few times during the winter.
Light therapy, whether from a SAD lamp or actual sun outside, can help combat the feelings of depression.
Your doctor can help you find a reputable provider for a lightbox or lamp which mimics real sunshine. They will help you determine the dose, which is the amount of time you should spend in front of the light.
Spending time outdoors can also combat these symptoms. Even if it is not sunny, fresh air and the outdoors can restore your mood and energy levels. Eating healthy will also help regulate your mood and energy.
Antidepressants are another way to treat symptoms of SAD.
You might need to be on them all the time or just during the times of year when your SAD symptoms emerge. A doctor will help you determine if this is right for you, the proper dose, and when you should take them.
Help Yourself and Others Today
Seasonal affective disorder can have a significant negative impact on your life. Since the seasons change every year, you should try to combat these symptoms once it becomes clear you are consistently suffering year after year.
Speak with your doctor or make an effort to make changes to your sleep, diet, and lifestyle on your own to decrease the symptoms and improve your well-being.
For more mental health resources and information, explore our other blog posts. We also provide professional psychological services. Contact us today to see how we can help you feel better.