Seasonal affective disorder, also called seasonal affective disorder, is a type of depression (SAD). It usually begins in the late fall and is brought on by the change of seasons. Sadness, a lack of energy, a loss of interest in daily activities, excessive sleeping, and weight gain are a few symptoms. Treatment options include antidepressants, talk therapy, and light therapy.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder: What Is It? Seasonal affective disorder better known as SAD, is a type of depression frequently associated with the arrival of a fall. Seasonal depression often worsens in the late fall or early winter before ending in the lighter spring days.
A less severe variation of SAD, known as the “winter blues,” can also happen. Winter is a season when melancholy is frequently felt. You might be confined inside because it gets dark so early.
The seasonal affective disorder is also known as seasonal depression. Such a depression does exist. Complete SAD, however, goes beyond this. Unlike the winter blues, SAD impacts your daily life, including how you feel and think. Fortunately, therapy can help you get through this difficult time.
Can People Get Seasonal Affective Disorder In The Summer?
One uncommon SAD variant that some people experience is “summer depression.” It often starts in the late spring or early summer and ends in the fall. It happens less frequently than a seasonal affective disorder that is winter-specific.
How Common Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)?
In the US, 5% of adults experience SAD. Usually, it starts in early adulthood (usually between 18 and 30). Between 10% and 20% of Americans may experience a milder form of the winter blues. However, scientists are unsure why women experience SAD at a higher rate than men.
Who Is At Risk For SAD?
The seasonal affective disorder is more likely to affect young people and women (SAD). Additionally, you are more vulnerable if you:
- Have a different mood disorder, like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.
- SAD, other types of depression or mental illnesses like major depression or schizophrenia are present in one’s family.
- Reside very far north or very far south of the equator. Reside in a gray area. Wintertime daylight hours at these latitudes are shorter.
What Are The Symptoms Of SAD?
This type of depression also includes seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The American Psychiatric Association has classified SAD as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. As a result, depressive symptoms like the following may be present if you have the seasonal affective disorder:
- Feelings of worthlessness or despair.
- Having trouble focusing
- They are aggravated or irritated.
- Arm and leg limbs that are heavy.
- A decline in interest in typically enjoyable activities, including a withdrawal from social activities.
- Sleeping issues (usually oversleeping).
- Thoughts of suicide or death.
- Sadness, feeling down for the majority of every day.
- Weight gain and cravings for carbohydrates.
- Extreme exhaustion and lack of vitality.
Summer SAD sufferers may encounter the following:
- Violent outbursts of behavior
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
- Restlessness and agitation.
- Reduction in appetite and loss of weight.
The Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)
Why does seasonal affective disorder occur? Researchers are unsure of the precise cause of seasonal depression. Lack of sunlight may worsen your condition if you are predisposed to it. The suppositions claim:
- Your internal clock governs your hormones, mood, and sleep. When the amount of sun you are exposed to drops, your biological clock adjusts. When the day length shifts, you cannot adapt because you are out of sync with your daily routine.
- In the brain, neurotransmitters that communicate between nerves are out of balance. One of these chemicals, serotonin, promotes happiness in its users. Your serotonin levels may already be low if you are prone to SAD. Serotonin levels could further drop and cause depression. Because sunlight regulates serotonin, the lack of the sun in the winter can worsen the issue.
- Serotonin levels are also increased by vitamin D. Because vitamin D is produced in part by sunlight, a lack of sunlight during the winter can cause a vitamin D deficiency. Your mood and the level of serotonin may be affected by that change.
- A chemical called melatonin affects your mood and sleep patterns. Lack of the sun may cause some people to produce too much melatonin. You might experience drowsiness and lethargy during the winter.
- People with SAD frequently feel stressed and anxious and have pessimistic thoughts during the winter. According to researchers, these negative thoughts could be the reason for or the effect of seasonal depression.
How Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad) Diagnosed?
A more serious mental health issue frequently includes seasonal affective disorder in its symptoms. If you experience symptoms, do not try to self-diagnose seasonal affective disease (SAD). For a thorough evaluation, consult your healthcare provider. Another element could bring on your depression.
You might be advised to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist or your doctor. These mental health specialists will question you about your symptoms. When determining whether you have seasonal depression or another mood disorder, your symptom pattern will be considered. You might need to answer a questionnaire to determine if you have SAD.
What Tests Are Required To Diagnose Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)?
There is no blood test or scan that can detect seasonal depression. However, your doctor might suggest testing to rule out other conditions with comparable symptoms, like determining whether your thyroid is functioning normally.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosis
If you have the following symptoms, your doctor may conclude that you have SAD:
- Severe depression symptoms.
- During specific seasons, depressive episodes last for at least two years.
- A particular season of the year is more likely than the rest to experience depressive episodes.
Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)
Seasonal affective disorder therapy
You and your doctor will talk about your treatment options. You might need a combination of therapies, including:
- Light therapy: Using a unique lamp, bright light therapy can assist in treating SAD.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a talk therapy component. According to research, it effectively treats SAD and has the longest-lasting effects of any treatment method.
- Antidepressants: Sometimes doctors will suggest taking antidepressants for depression alone or in conjunction with light therapy.
- Spending time outside: More sun exposure can aid in the resolution of your symptoms. The amount of sunlight entering your home or business should be increased. Try to leave in the daytime.
- Vitamin D: Supplementing with vitamin D may make you feel better.
How Does Light Therapy Work?
You will need to purchase a unique lamp for light therapy or phototherapy. It has white fluorescent light tubes covered in a plastic screen to block ultraviolet light. The light is about 20 times as bright as typical indoor lighting. 10,000 lux is the minimum amount of light that can be produced. When using phototherapy, keep your eyes away from the light. You should only be exposed to sunlight indirectly. Place the lamp two to three feet away while you read, eat, work, or do anything else.
What Time Of Day Should Light Therapy Be Used?
It may be less effective depending on what time of day you use light therapy. The best light treatment is done in the morning. For 15 to 30 minutes every morning, 10,000 lux is advised by many health professionals. Utilizing light treatment later in the day might keep you awake.
How Long Does It Take Light Therapy To Work?
When using lamps to treat SAD, people frequently see improvements within two to four days. You may not feel all of its advantages for about two weeks.
How Long Should I Continue To Use Light Therapy?
Medical professionals frequently suggest using light therapy all winter long. When light therapy is discontinued, SAD symptoms may return suddenly. If you continue the treatment, you can feel your best the entire season.
Is Light Therapy Safe?
Light therapy is typically safe and well-tolerated. If the following conditions apply to you, you may need to consider other treatment options:
Have diabetes or retinopathies: If you are diagnosed with diabetes or retinopathy, the retina, the back of your eye, is vulnerable to damage.
Use medication: Some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Light therapy might then be harmful.
Antidepressants and bright light therapy can cause hypomania or mania, uncontrollable mood swings, and energy spikes if you have bipolar disorder. This will affect the way you approach treatment. If you have bipolar disorder, let your doctor know.
Are There Side Effects Of Light Therapy?
You may experience the following:
Can A Tanning Bed Be Used Instead Of Light Therapy To Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Don’t use tanning beds to treat SAD. Tanning beds do produce enough light, but they also carry additional risks. They have many UV rays, which are bad for your skin and eyes.
Which Antidepressants Can Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder (Sad)?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can treat SAD (SSRIs). By controlling serotonin levels in your body, they elevate your mood.
Examples of SSRIs include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®).
- Escitalopram (Lexapro®).
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva®).
- Sertraline (Zoloft®).
- Citalopram (Celexa®).
Another well-known antidepressant, bupropion, is also available in extended-release tablets. Taking it regularly from late fall to early spring can aid in preventing episodes of seasonal depression.
In a Nutshell
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as depression, is a condition that affects people every year during a particular season, usually the winter. Two signs are a lack of energy and a feeling of helplessness. The good news is that seasonal depression is curable. Speak with your healthcare professional. They are available to help.