Seasonal Affective Disorder
It’s an all too familiar feeling. A cool nip is in the air and the realization the days are getting shorter setsÂ in. While you love to see the natural beauty of the leaves on the trees as they change or love the ideaÂ of getting out on the slopes and the frozen pond, you don’t quite feel yourself anymore. It starts to getÂ harder to get yourself out of bed in the morning, and you don’t have the energy to do the things that youÂ know bring you joy. You have important things to do at work, but you can’t quite bring yourself to buckleÂ down and concentrate like you usually can when deadlines approach. You don’t understand why thisÂ is happening again, and why you can’t just snap out of it. You know your weight is going up, but youÂ can’t restrain yourself from eating and drinking anything and everything in the house, break room, andÂ restaurant. The lack of self-control is frightening.
If the previous paragraph hits uncomfortably close to home,Â you might be someone who struggles with seasonal affectiveÂ disorder (SAD). Depression has started to emerge from theÂ territory of whispers and family secrets as millions of AmericansÂ struggle with the symptoms and more frequently seek treatment.Â SAD is a subtype of major depression whose symptoms rearÂ their ugly heads when the seasons change; most people withÂ SAD experience the onset of these symptoms as environmentalÂ factors change in the late fall and early winter months, but thereÂ is also a subset of people who experience similar symptoms asÂ the weather improves. While it is common for people to feel a bitÂ more sluggish as the weather cools off and have an occasionalÂ “off” day, people who are diagnosed with SAD experience theseÂ symptoms for extended periods of time and often experienceÂ difficulty fulfilling their normal duties at work and at home. It is stillÂ unclear what the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder is,Â but scientists believe the onset of symptoms has something toÂ do with how the change in levels of sunlight affects our bodies.Â A promising treatment option exists, light box therapy, where aÂ person sits in front of a special light for a period of time each dayÂ (usually 30 minutes in the morning) to counteract the changeÂ in sunlight.
“…the onset of symptoms has some-Â thing to do with how the change inÂ levels of sunlight affects our bodies.”
But if you think that you might be experiencing the onset of SAD,Â your first step should not be to run out and buy a light box. MakeÂ an appointment with your doctor and talk to them about theÂ symptoms you are experiencing; it is a great idea to prepare yourself for the appointment by keeping a diary of your symptomsÂ and noting any other factors that could be contributing to yourÂ symptoms. If your doctor thinks that you may be experiencingÂ SAD or another depressive disorder, he or she may refer you to aÂ psychiatrist or suggest a treatment plan for you. Some combination of antidepressant medication, talk therapy, and/or light boxÂ therapy is generally prescribed for people suffering from SAD.
Dealing with SAD and other forms of depression is difficult.Â Don’t spend another winter feeling helpless and unhappy; thereÂ are people out there who can help. The sooner you talk withÂ someone about how you are feeling, the closer you will be to theÂ treatment solution that is right for you.