SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a form of depression that affects millions of people all around the world. People are typically most affected by SAD during the cooler, darker months, such as winter time. While there have been reports of the summertime affecting people with SAD, it is much less common.
Scientists have yet to determine a root cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but there are some commonalities amongst the more prevalent of sufferers:
- Residing far from the equator
- Between the ages of 25 and 55
- Note – the risk of getting SAD decreases as you get older
- Those who live in close proximity to others with SAD
If you’re also someone that has dealt with depression or a strong bout of anxiety in the past, you’re more prone to developing seasonal affective disorder.
Causes of SAD:
While more and more research has been funded since the disease was discovered in 1984, there is still a long way to do. The exact causes, or causes of SAD, are completely unknown.
The most common, and widely-accepted, thesis is that a lack of sunlight for extended periods of time can trigger SAD. Frequent exposure to sunlight is incredibly important. Even taking a 30 minute walk during the daytime on your lunch break can make the difference between whether or not you get SAD. If you’re like most office workers, you may want to take a look at light therapy boxes. Here’s a guide on how to use light therapy boxes.
The lack of sunlight theory is backed by two main proponents:
- Lack of sunlight messes up your circadian rhythms (or biological clock). Your circadian rhythm is determined by the ebb and flow of the sun relative to earth. Our bodies are bred to be awake from the morning until the night, and to rest when the sun has set. Without having sustained, frequent exposure to sunlight, our bodies aren’t sure what time of day it is, thus causing depression
- Lack of sunlight messes up serotonin levels. Serotonin is a wonderful little chemical that our body produces that greatly affects your mood. Have you ever wondered why people on ecstasy are so happy? It’s because the drug unleashes all of the body’s stored up serotonin reserves. Our bodies are meant to have a sustained drip of serotonin throughout the day. This aligns with our exposure to sunlight. If your body isn’t exposed to sunlight then your serotonin levels aren’t going to be properly regulated.
Symptoms of SAD
As with any depression, the systems of SAD are going to vary from person to person. The more common symptoms are:
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Lack of energy
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Eating more comfort food (carbohydrates)
- Sleeping more yet still feeling exhausted
- Having trouble concentrating
Again, these symptoms are just some of the ones that people with SAD are going to experience. The symptoms will vary based on how the disease is affecting that person.
Ask yourself if you feel way worse mentally during the winter than the summer. If so, then you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Please speak with your medical professional
Getting Diagnosed with SAD
Depression is often very easy for a trained medical professional to diagnose. However, it can be very difficult for them to narrow it down to SAD specifically. You see, seasonal affective disorder is still a form of depression that is in the acceptance stage. Most doctors are going to recognize and accept it as a true disease, however, they are at a loss as to how to cure it.
When you go see your medical professional, be prepared for them to ask you a few questions such as:
- How many years have you noticed the pattern of becoming depressed during the winter?
- What kind of symptoms are you experiencing?
- Does anyone in your family or friend group have the same feelings?
- What is your typical day like during the winter months?
There are more questions, but those are definitely going to be asked.
Your medical professional may also recommend that you get bloodwork done in order to rule out the possibility of a physiological issue.