The holidays can be a tough time for those who are prone to depression, and for some, the shift of seasons means a shift in moods. This specific kind of depression that fluctuates with the seasons is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. People who have seasonal depression actually meet all of the same criteria as those with more streamlined depression, the only difference is that their depression is linked to seasonal changes and follows a predictable pattern.
What are the Symptoms of SAD?
An inability to enjoy life activities, oversleeping or insomnia; changes in weight or appetite; mood swings, fatigue, and irritability can all be signs of depression. To be considered a major episode, these symptoms must occur for a certain period of time and interfere with daily functioning
How do I know it's SAD and not just depression?
If you have experienced more than one episode of clinically significant major depression, and these seemed to coincide with seasonal changes, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Work with your doctor to determine whether there is a pattern in your depression that can be identified and planned for on an annual basis.
Who is at Risk?
Women are much more likely to be diagnosed with SAD; and people who live in northern climates are at a higher risk. Anyone who has suffered from depression or bipolar disorder is also at an increased risk of having seasonal depression.
What about the "Winter Blues?"
Many people experience some depressive symptoms during the winter months without meeting the criteria for full-blown major depression. This is especially common in colder climates where the winter days tend to be much shorter and darker.
How do I treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Common treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder include medication and psychotherapy. Because Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to be partially triggered by a lack of sunlight, affecting the body's ability to regulate serotonin and melatonin, lightbox therapy and Vitamin D supplements are also often recommended.
What else can I do?
Exercise, eating well, volunteering, socializing and getting outside are all things you can do to manage your depression when the days get shorter and darker. The good news is: you can always count on things getting better when spring rolls around in just a few months.
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