With seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, affecting thousands of people today, it’s important than ever to learn more about it.
Whether you’re concerned it’s a problem for yourself or a family member, finding out more can help you learn more about managing this issue. If you’re not sure where to get started, take the SAD quiz or test below.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a type of depression that is associated with seasonal changes. Most people experience this during the same time every year, with a depressed mood beginning in the fall and continuing into the winter. It normally resolves within months, although this can feel like much longer for the individual who is suffering.
- Weight Gain
- Feeling Sad
- Craving Junk Food
- Mood Swings
- No Interest in Usual Activities
The symptoms for each individual vary, so it’s important to remember those that you experience may be different from those of someone else. Additionally, your symptoms may change throughout the year. For most people, they feel the most depressed during the winter and begin to recover in April.
Self-Assessment Quiz for SAD
While no replacement for a diagnosis by a doctor, the self-assessment quiz below can help you learn if you suffer from this problem.
Question 1: Have you felt sad lately?
If you answered yes to this question, this could be a sign that you’re suffering from SAD. This is especially true if the season has recently changed and you no longer enjoy the activities or hobbies that you did just a short time ago.
Question 2: Have you lost interest in eating healthy and want to eat more carbohydrates?
Answering “yes” can mean that your body isn’t releasing serotonin due to SAD.
Question 3: Do you have trouble falling asleep?
Answering “yes” could mean seasonal affective disorder is contributing to trouble falling asleep and even staying asleep.
Question 4: When you wake up are you sluggish and fatigued?
If even after a full night of sleep you wake up feeling like you haven’t sleep a wink, this could be a sign you’re suffering from SAD. Often times this can mean feeling fatigued in the morning, afternoon evening, and all throughout the rest of the day.
Question 5: Have you experienced sudden weight gain?
Sudden weight gain is another common sign of seasonal affective disorder, especially if you normally work hard to maintain your weight.
If you answered yes to some or all of the above questions, then it’s important to seek help from a medical professional right away.
Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder
In order to receive a diagnosis, it’s recommended to visit with your family doctor to discuss your mood and symptoms. However, if you have suffered from depression the same time of year for the past two years, it’s very likely that you’re affected by this disorder.
Additionally, if you have a family member such as a mother or brother who has been diagnosed with SAD, it could be affecting you as well. In most situations your health care provider will run blood tests, including those for a low thyroid, in order to rule out other health conditions that could be contributing to your symptoms.
What are the Solutions for SAD?
There are many treatments available for SAD, although this tends to resolve itself within a few months. For those who do not want to hurt through the worst months, the solutions below are worth considering:
This is perhaps one of the most well-known and effective treatment options available today. Although there isn’t irrefutable evidence that it works, most experts believe it can help because the increase in light helps reset your biological clock and sleep cycle. As a result, your body naturally produces more serotonin (the chemical that helps regulate your mood).
How does it work? This requires a specialized seasonal affective disorder light that can be easily purchased online. If you choose bright light treatment, this is where you’ll sit in front of a light box while you are on your computer, working, eating meals, or doing anything else sitting down. The light inside is brighter than indoor lights but no so bright as to be irritating. If you choose dawn simulation, a dim light will come on a certain amount of time before you wake up in the morning. It will gradually get brighter and mimic a natural sunrise so you wake up feeling more refreshed than you would waking up in the dark.
Exercising, especially by doing aerobic activity, can greatly help with your mood in addition to helping to improve your health. Just 20-30 minutes 5 days a week is recommended, which most people can fit into their busy schedules. Yoga is another excellent benefit that is recommended because it can help release serotonin while providing more mental clarity.
In some situations, doctors recommend that their patients take antidepressants in order to help regulate their mood. While some are recommended to take only the medications, others may be told to use light therapy in conjunction with the medication. Some common antidepressants used for seasonal affective disorder include: paroxetine, bupropion, sertraline, and venlafaxine.
By eating a healthier diet you may see an improvement in your symptoms of SAD. This is due to the fact that healthy foods are packed with vitamins and nutrients that your body could be lacking. Vitamin D in particular is incredibly important, especially with decreased sunlight experienced during the fall and winter. By eating more eggs, fish, or milk you’ll be able to get more of this vitamin in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon, are also linked to helping alleviate symptoms of depression. While eating healthier isn’t guaranteed to change the way you feel, it’s worth trying simply since it’s great for your health.
Therapy or Counselling
By going to counselling or therapy, you’ll be able to get in-touch with your symptoms, triggers, and mental health. For most people, this helps them manage their symptoms more effectively so they can potentially avoid more depressed states in the future. Two types of counselling that are highly recommended in particular are interpersonal and cognitive-behavioral therapy.