Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that involves a seasonal depression. It most often occurs between fall and winter months. Occasionally, it can affect individuals in the spring to summer season cycle. The disorder occurs due to the changing of the seasons.
During an episode of SAD in the winter month, patients will experience moodiness, fatigue, conflicts with others, feelings of rejection and worthlessness, weighed down limbs, increase in sleeping, dietary cravings such as the desire for more carbohydrates, and gaining of excess pounds, according to the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20021047). The symptoms of summer depression differ, in that patients might suffer from weight loss, decrease in the sleep cycle, lack of craving for food, and anxiousness (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20021047).
SAD is a form of biological depression just as major depression is. One of the main causes of SAD is a drop in serotonin, which can be caused from decreased exposure to sunlight. Also, when the body’s natural clock or circadian rhythm is tampered with, as the changing of seasons can cause, the body may react to this imbalance through depression. Part of this change can impact a person’s behavioral cycle in negative ways, and the culmination of these new habits can actually spark feelings of depression. Also, when the seasons change it can also affect people’s levels of melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate sleep patterns and without the proper balance in the brain, people can find themselves suffering from either insomnia or sleeplessness.
Many people may be tempted to ignore SAD, and they may feel that in a couple of months, they will start to feel better again. But this form of depression deserves medical attention. If SAD is not treated, individuals might sink into a deeper hole and begin to feel suicidal. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to help self-medicate, and these substances will create larger problems for the person. Also, SAD can disrupt sufferers’ regular routines, causing problems in academic performance or even lead to the loss of a job. It is not comfortable to constantly lose or gain weight every year, struggle with sleep, and suffer from emotional disturbances. There are treatments available from the doctor and even found over-the-counter in the pharmacy that can help combat feelings of sadness and unwanted behavioral changes.
There are the same antidepressant treatments available to sufferers of SAD as there are for any other patients with mood disorders. Patients might be put off by undesirable side effects such as weight gain and loss of libido, but there are some depression medications that do not have these maladies listed on their profiles. The doctor will first take a full lab to rule out any other pre-existing conditions before prescribing any medication. In the meantime, patients might benefit from light therapy and counselling. There are light therapy boxes available from the home health care stores that can be purchased or rented for home use. These help to regulate melatonin levels and even boost serotonin. When used at night, a light box can help trick the body into the experience of prolonged sunlight during winter months.
It always helps to talk about depression, and when experiencing SAD, it is good to allow trusted friends and relatives to give support through the difficult time. Whether it is allowing them to cook a meal or drive one to a doctor’s appointment, social support will help sufferers of SAD feel supported through the difficult time. It is important to be aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and always be on the lookout to aid those who may be suffering.