What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What It Is?
You’ve probably heard a lot about depression, but you might not know that there is a type of depression that is connected to seasonal changes in the weather; it is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or “SAD.”  People with SAD are depressed only during a particular season of the year, most commonly, during the winter months.  It has not yet been discovered what causes SAD, but there are several factors that seem to have an effect on this sometimes serious condition.

SAD is just as debilitating and dangerous as any major depressive disorder. The symptoms are essentially the same: feeling down or sad most of the day or for several days in a row, feeling hopeless, having no energy, feeling worthless, having difficulty sleeping, not enjoying activities you did before, being irritable, losing your appetite, problems with concentration and thinking about suicide.

What Causes It?
There are some working theories on what might cause seasonal affective disorder.  Seratonin level is linked to most depressive disorders and is also suspected as a culprit in SAD.  Seratonin’s link to sunlight is another reason to suspect it.  Circadian rhythm—which is your body’s internal sleep clock—is another potential cause of SAD.  When the days are shortened and sleep patterns are disrupted, your body’s clock can get confused and cause depression.  Melatonin is another chemical naturally found in the body that can be affected by changes in weather and daily routine.  Melatonin has been directly linked to mood and sleep.

When Symptoms Appear
The vast majority of SAD symptoms appear in the Fall or Winter months, but some cases actually appear in the Spring and Summer seasons.  Most likely these differences are related to what the root cause is for each individual.  For individuals that suffer the condition due to traumatic experiences, the season corresponding with the traumatic event may trigger symptoms.

For patients with bipolar disorder, the change in weather experienced in the spring can trigger their mania, which causes their condition to mimic SAD.

How to Treat It
SAD can be treated in many different ways.  Counseling can be effective, some medications can help, and also phototherapy, also known as light therapy, has been known to be successful in treating SAD.

But the most important thing to know about treatment for any type of depression is that it is very important to seek it or you could be in grave danger of harming yourself.  Whether you begin to think about harming yourself, or seek relief in alcohol or drugs, depression can be deadly.

When looking for help with seasonal affective disorder contact Salt Lake Behavioral Health.  Reach them online at www.saltlakebehavioralhealth.com or by phone at 801-264-6000.

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