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Understanding and managing seasonal affective disorder

Understanding and managing seasonal affective disorder

Did you know that the weather can significantly impact your mood? Dull and rainy days can make us feel sluggish and unmotivated, wanting to stay in bed all day. Similarly, warm and sunny days often have a positive effect on our mood and outlook.

Even though these shifts in moods do not commonly get in the way of you going about your day, there are people who are more susceptible to forms of depression associated with changes in the seasons throughout the year, especially in the fall, when the weather gets colder. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is related to the change in seasons, and because of this, it tends to start and end at the same time each year. For most people who are prone to SAD, symptoms commonly appear in the fall and can last until the spring.

Awareness is important. Many people often discount their feelings and consider their symptoms to be a case of the blues. If you experience these feelings each year, it may be a sign that there is something more significant occurring.

Signs and symptoms of SAD

SAD is a form of depression, so it should not be overlooked. Here are some signs that may indicate SAD:

  • Low energy and tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Oversleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Change in eating patterns
  • A feeling of being weighted down
  • Hypersensitivity

When should I see a doctor?

Everyone has their ups and downs. There will be days when you feel down and just not like yourself, and that’s normal. But when the feeling of being down and depressed lasts for days at a time and starts to impact your life, then it’s time to see your doctor.

If you start to have suicidal thoughts, engage in self-destructive behaviour, or turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort, go to the doctor immediately.

It’s also important for you to be aware of and look for these signs in other people. Often, people do not immediately notice the signs of SAD in themselves.

How can I prevent SAD?

Unfortunately, there is no specific cause for SAD, but a number of factors can come into play. The reduction of sunlight impacting your biological clock, a drop in serotonin level and an imbalance in melatonin level can all be factors.

Other factors that are associated with SAD include being female, a family history of SAD, having clinical depression and living farther away from the equator. It’s also more common among younger people.

Depending on the severity of your situation, you could be prescribed one or more types of treatment. Light therapy is often the first course of action. If this doesn’t help or if you have a more serious case of depression, you may benefit from medication or even psychotherapy.

As with other medical conditions, your lifestyle plays a large role in prevention and dealing with the disorder. Eating a balanced diet, getting outside and being active will help. Making an effort to be around other people and alternative medical treatments such as massage therapy, meditation or yoga can also help prevent SAD.

For some, the best cure is to take a trip, get out in the sun and enjoy a new experience. (Make sure you have travel insurance!)

Source: Mayo Clinic