Things you don’t know about Seasonal Affective Disorder

Things you don’t know about Seasonal Affective Disorder

Introduction

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of mood disorder that typically affects people during the winter months when the days are shorter and darker. It is estimated that approximately 2-3% of Australians are affected by SAD, with women being more likely to suffer from it than men. While many people are aware of the symptoms of SAD, there are several things about this disorder that are less well-known. In this article, we will explore some of the lesser-known facts about SAD and what you can do to manage its symptoms.

What Causes SAD?

The exact cause of SAD is not known, but researchers believe that it is related to a lack of exposure to natural light during the winter months. The lack of sunlight can disrupt the natural rhythms of our body, which can affect our hormones and neurotransmitters, leading to symptoms of depression. Some factors that may increase your risk of developing SAD include living far from the equator, having a family history of depression, and having an existing mental health condition.

Symptoms of SAD

The symptoms of SAD can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Low mood, sadness or feeling hopeless
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms are similar to those of other types of depression, but what sets SAD apart is that the symptoms typically occur during specific seasons, usually winter. The symptoms generally clear up on their own as the seasons change and the days become longer and lighter.

Treatment for SAD

If you suspect that you have SAD, it is important to speak to your doctor. They may recommend a combination of treatments to help manage your symptoms. These treatments may include:

  • Light therapy: This involves using a special lightbox that emits bright light to simulate natural sunlight. You would sit in front of the lightbox for a specified amount of time each day to help regulate your body’s natural rhythms.
  • Psychotherapy: Talking therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be helpful in managing the symptoms of SAD.
  • Medication: Antidepressant medication may be prescribed for people with severe symptoms of SAD.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly or getting outside for a walk during daylight hours, can also be beneficial in managing the symptoms of SAD.

SAD and Your Career

If you have SAD, it can be difficult to manage the symptoms while still maintaining a productive work life. One way to manage SAD in the workplace is to talk to your employer about flexible work arrangements. This may include working from home on dark and gloomy days or being able to take time off when needed. It is also important to practice good self-care techniques, such as getting outside during daylight hours and taking breaks when needed.

Conclusion

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common mood disorder that can have a significant impact on your mental health and wellbeing. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of SAD and to seek help if you believe that you are affected by it. With the right treatment and management strategies, it is possible to manage the symptoms of SAD and continue to lead a productive and fulfilling life.


FAQs

FAQs About Things You Don’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that people experience during specific times of the year, usually in fall and winter months due to shorter daylight hours. Symptoms may include feeling sad, hopeless, moody or anxious, and having low energy along with difficulty sleeping, among others.

Can SAD be treated?

Yes, SAD can be effectively treated with different approaches, including light therapy or phototherapy, medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits. The most effective solution depends on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s situation, so it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for a personalized treatment plan.

How can one prevent or cope with SAD?

There are several strategies that can help prevent or cope with SAD, such as maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle, getting as much natural sunlight as possible, using a light box to replicate natural sunlight, planning outdoor activities, practicing stress-reducing techniques, seeking social support or counseling, and being kind and patient with oneself. Building resilience and self-care skills is key to managing the effects of SAD and enjoying life throughout the year.


References

1. Rosenthal, N. E., Sack, D. A., Gillin, J. C., Lewy, A. J., Goodwin, F. K., Davenport, Y., . . . Wehr, T. A. (1984). Seasonal Affective Disorder. A Description of the Syndrome and Preliminary Findings with Light Therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41(1), 72-80. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790120076010

2. Golden, R. N., Gaynes, B. N., Ekstrom, R. D., Hamer, R. M., Jacobsen, F. M., Suppes, T., . . . Nemeroff, C. B. (2005). The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(4), 656-662. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.4.656

3. Wirz-Justice, A. (2009). Seasonality in Mood and Behavior. The Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 531-562. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163156