woman suffering from seasonal depression

Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Although the fall and winter months are filled with holiday cheer for many people, this time of year can be much harder for others. Every year, millions of people across the country experience low moods and other depressive symptoms during the coldest, darkest months. For some people, this condition is more than just the “winter blues.” It’s a mental health condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a mental health disorder that affects about 10 million Americans every year. Some people also refer to this condition as the winter blues or seasonal depression. Someone with this condition experiences symptoms of depression during certain seasons but not others. While most people with SAD experience depression during Fall and Winter, when the days are shorter and people stay inside more. However, some people experience Spring/Summer SAD.

The symptoms that may arise during a SAD episode include:

  • Low, depressed mood
  • Lack of energy
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Lack of interest in once-beloved activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

If you or someone you love has thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek immediate medical attention. You can reach out to your nearest emergency room, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or text the crisis line.While SAD shares many symptoms with general depression, these disorders have one important distinction: SAD only occurs during specific seasons and lets up when seasons change.

Causes and Risk Factors for SAD

As with most mental disorders, there is no single cause for SAD. However, research suggests that the lack of sunlight can cause a person’s circadian rhythm to become imbalanced and lead to a lack of serotonin and melatonin. Certain risk factors can also make someone more likely to develop SAD, including:

  • A family history of SAD
  • Living far from the Earth’s equator
  • Living with bipolar disorder or major depression

Treatment for SAD

People with SAD do not have to suffer with the symptoms throughout each affected season. One effective treatment is light therapy. People with SAD can benefit from getting more sunlight. When getting outside more often is not an option, synthetic lights can help. These lights are specifically made for SAD treatment. Light therapy is generally used as the first line of treatment for SAD and is relatively safe. In some cases, patients benefit from therapy for seasonal depression. In these sessions, people with SAD learn healthy coping mechanisms and how to change their behavioral patterns. In some severe cases, patients need medication to manage their symptoms. These medications include antidepressants, and it can take time to adjust to the right dosage. If you or someone you love experiences the signs of seasonal depression, contact LifeStance Health today. The compassionate professionals can help you understand what’s happening and decide on the best course of treatment for you. You do not have to suffer alone year-after-year. We’re here to help.

Find a Provider

OCD, Mood Disorders, Stress, and 7 more.