Seasonal Affective Disorder: Do You Know What It Is?

· September 17, 2015

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression or seasonal mood disorder, sounds much like what you think it is. However, it is not always recognized as a disorder by the people who have it. Many people suddenly become sad during certain times of the year (usually autumn and winter) without knowing why and just write it off as the “winter blues.”

Learn how to recognize the signs of SAD in yourself and others, as well as steps you can take to relieve the suffering.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a specific type of depression that is affected by the changes in light in each season. Usually, the change starts in October and November when the days become shorter. When spring arrives the symptoms generally dissipate. Sometimes, however the reverse can happen and symptoms will present themselves during the summer months.

What are the causes of SAD?

The causes of SAD still are not very clear. At the moment, we know that the symptoms of sadness, apathy or discouragement are caused by the decreased hours of daylight that come with the seasonal change. If a person’s symptoms are exacerbated in the summer, however, the increase of light during the day causes the change in our emotions, but we do not know why this happens.

In terms of what’s happening in the brain, according to experts in the field, melatonin and serotonin (two hormones that help regulate the sleep cycle, energy levels, and mood) could be responsible for the fact that we feel more listless than usual.


What are the symptoms?

1. Mood swings

People with SAD may suddenly feel low or have feelings of worthlessness. In short, they have feelings of despair. They may also get annoyed more easily with everything, no matter how “silly” being upset might seem. People who suffer from SAD find themselves in an emotional state where they feel more irritable and sensitive.

2. Loss of enjoyment

Although you may enjoy something greatly, when you are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, everything you once enjoyed suddenly no longer interests you because it doesn’t give you the same pleasure as before. You lose interest and become dissatisfied with many things as well as situations. To make matters worse, this is usually accompanied by feelings of guilt.

3. Lack of energy

Maybe you feel tired for no apparent reason. Maybe you’re sleeping sleep a lot even when you’re not tired. What is happening? These are common symptoms of SAD.  Your energy level can plummet suddenly, making you feel confused and sometimes worried, because you cannot figure our a cause or solution to the problem.

4. Dietary changes

Many people experience changes in diet when they’re affected by SAD. These changes can be characterized as much by a lack of appetite as the need to eat more. The latter can be experienced more strongly due to increased anxiety caused by changes in sleep, lack of energy, sudden onslaught of apathy, etc.

5. Difficulty concentrating

This disorder can cause a decrease in school and/or work performance. Usually this results from a lack of motivation. This is often caused by the lack of energy mentioned above. It takes more out of us just to get up out of bed and everything requires more effort than we care to give. To top it off, we also experience lack of concentration which makes us think about other things – or about nothing at all.

6. Decreased desire to socialize

People with this disorder may spend less time outside of their home. They tend to close themselves off to others and see less of their friends and family. It is as if they fold into themselves. They never feel like going out, unwinding, having fun, doing something, or feeling active. This causes a lot of frustration for them because they do not really do anything at home either and therefore, they see their lives as meaningless. This is caused by a combination of the symptoms listed above, including lack of energy and sudden apathy.

How can people with SAD feel better?

Although there are many proposed treatments and strategies for dealing with SAD, they aren’t all equally effective for everyone. To start, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms to see how he or she can help you in combating them. Doctors can also calm any worries you might have.

Your doctor might recommend that you take advantage of daylight hours to exercise, try to have an active social life, eat well, establish a good sleep routine, etc. These are a few things you can do to cope with SAD.

Do you or someone you know have this disorder? Do you think there is a better solution for Seasonal Affective Disorder? Let us know in the comment section!