Seasonal Affective Disorder

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression, commonly referred to as SAD or seasonal depression. People who experience seasonal affective disorder experience mood changes and symptoms that are similar to depression but occur only in the fall or winter. In the United States the most difficult months for people with SAD are January and February. On the other end the least common time for people to experience SAD is in the summer months.

People commonly mistake SAD with the “winter blues” or “cabin fever” but, the symptoms are much more. The symptoms of SAD can be distressing and overwhelming and can interfere with daily functioning. Around 6 percent of adults in the United States experience SAD that typically lasts for 40 percent of the year. Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, and the depression usually starts in early adulthood.

The exact cause of this condition is not known but there is some strong evidence. SAD has been linked to the shorter daylight hours in the winter, which leads to biochemical imbalance in the brain. As the seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock and sleep rhythms, which causes people to fall out of their daily schedule. People living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter are more common to experience SAD.

What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression including:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • Increased need for sleep

And many more.

Some self-help tips:

Tip 1: Get as much natural sunlight as possible: Sunlight even in small doses can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood.

  • Take a short walk outside
  • Open your blinds

Tip 2: Exercise regularly: regular exercise can boost serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good chemicals. Exercise can also help improve your sleep.

  • Find exercise that are continuous and rhythmic
  • Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days

Tip 3: Reach out to family and friends: Close relationships are vital in reducing isolation and helping you manage SAD: Participate in social activities, even if you do not feel like it.

  • Call or email an old friend
  • Meet new people

Tip 4: Eat the right diet: Eating well balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings.

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