Seasonal affective disorder symptoms, causes and when to seek help for mood disorder


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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than just dealing with “cabin fever” or feeling down when the weather turns cold.

It’s a depression that occurs with changing seasons and affects millions of Americans, including children, every year.

The illness can cause long-term damage to your mental health if left untreated.

Depression affects millions of Americans, with the highest category of major depression for adults occurring in individuals ages 18 to 25. The specific cause of the condition is not known. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many factors such as genetics, biology and environment play a major role.

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The CDC estimates that nearly one in six US adults will experience some form of depression during their lifetime. Across all age groups, more than 16 million Americans experience the effects of depression, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including feeling sad or anxious or having suicidal thoughts.

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that resurfaces for individuals as the seasons change. (iStock)

Treatment of the condition can vary depending on the severity and includes therapy and medications. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, consult your doctor or a qualified medical professional to determine the best treatment.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a type of depression related to seasonal changes that usually occurs during the fall and winter months.

People most affected by depression and mood disorders return to their depression every fall, with symptoms worsening in the winter before going into a kind of remission in the spring and summer. It’s more common in women and young people — and in people who live in places with long winter nights, according to experts.

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But for people who never seek treatment, SAD can lead to other forms of depression, Diana Jordan Crosby, clinical director of New Method Wellness, told Fox News in a February 2020 interview.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, decreased energy and focus, social withdrawal, increased sleepiness, decreased interest in work or other activities, sluggish movements, increased appetite with weight gain, and depression and irritability.

“Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease can be disguised as normal winter tropes, but they can be very serious,” Crosby said.

The segment of the population that is considered to be at the highest risk for developing SAD includes those who live farther from the equator.

“A person should seek help for SAD when their lifestyle is being affected by symptoms, such as a significant lack of energy, difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to overeat and gain weight, and withdrawal from family and friends. .”

Combined, these symptoms can cause a person to miss work or see their relationships suffer, which can exacerbate depression.

What are examples of seasonal affective disorder?

A common pattern for someone with seasonal affective disorder is to experience depressive symptoms in the late fall or early winter but recover with sunny days in the spring or early summer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, typical behaviors or patterns of a person with SAD include excessive suicidal thoughts, sleeping late during the day, loss of interest in hobbies or any outside activities, and feelings of self-loathing or guilt.

What is the best treatment?

The population segment considered most at risk for developing SAD includes those who live far from the equator, Crosby said, due to less sunlight in the winter and summer. May be due to long days.

Other risk factors include gender, as women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with SAD, and those with a family history or diagnosis of major depression or bipolar disorder.

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“You shouldn’t just ‘wait it out’ when it comes to seasonal depression,” Crosby said.

“Although you may be waiting for the symptoms to ‘go away’ as we transition into spring, it is very important that you treat SAD and continue to treat it during the period of remission.”

More than 16 million Americans struggle with depression each year.

More than 16 million Americans struggle with depression each year. (iStock)

Treatment options may include light therapy, vitamin D, medications and psychotherapy, he said. Crosby said she also has patients who will plan vacations around the season to ensure they are going to sunny places during the winter to combat their symptoms.

What is light therapy?

A common and successful method for SAD is light therapy, which is a type of phototherapy where a person is exposed to direct sunlight or intense artificial light on a daily basis. Outside of depression, this treatment can also help treat patients with sleep disorders.

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A light box is a typical example of light therapy in which a person is exposed to at least 10,000 lux of light about 24 inches from the patient’s face with their eyes open but not looking directly into the light.

Patients are recommended to use this technique early in the morning to help improve their mood and reduce severe symptoms of SAD.

What is psychotherapy?

Outside of medication, psychotherapy is considered another effective treatment method for combating the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. It is a form of talk therapy in which the patient develops healthy daily coping skills to overcome the trauma.

Some psychotherapy sessions may take place in a group or individual environment with a therapist. These sessions are highly confidential and require a great deal of trust between patient and therapist.

Alexandria Hein contributed reporting.

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