Seasonal Affective Disorder: What You Need to Know

Published on: 11 November 2019

What Is SAD?

Do you feel chronically depressed during winter? You might be experiencing a serious condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The first sign of snow is the start of exciting outdoor sports like skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. Your friends eagerly went on a shopping spree to buy Giro MIPS ski helmets and other winter essentials, but you decided to stay home. You feel sluggish and have very low energy to enjoy the activities that you once enjoyed.

 

If the cold weather seriously upsets you every time, you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD or sometimes called winter depression is a mood disorder that affects about 4-6% of Americans.

 

 

What are the symptoms of SAD?

You might have SAD if you have experienced the following symptoms during late fall to early winter for the past two years:

  • Feeling of depression, hopelessness, or worthlessness during the day
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty to concentrate
  • Sudden changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Overeating and craving for foods with high carbohydrates
  • Hibernating or lack of interest in doing social activities
  • Lethargy and fatigue during daytime
  • Suicidal thoughts in severe SAD

 

Who Would Likely to Have SAD?

There are some factors that may increase the risk of experiencing this condition.

  • Traumatic Experience

Experiencing an unforgettably painful event during winter (whether losing a loved one in a tragic incident, an unfortunate shoulder injury or a near-death accident) can trigger you to reminisce the same experience every winter. It is tough for people to enjoy the snow if it reminds them of their previous pain and this reminder can trigger SAD.

  • Age and Gender

NIMH says that women are four times prone to SAD compared to men. Women who are between the ages of 20-30 are more likely to develop winter depression than their older peers. Although there is no definite scientific explanation on why SAD is prevalent in young women, some theories suggest that there is a high rate of depression in women under the child-bearing age.

  • Family History

If your relatives have this mood disorder, there is a high possibility that you will also suffer from the same condition.

  • Geographic Location

People who are located far from the equator are more likely to be affected by SAD because of long winter nights and cool temperatures.

 

What are your options?

The good news is you can ease the symptoms of SAD by making small changes in your routine.

 

  • Get more Vitamin D

Take every opportunity to go out. Take a morning walk or go on a picnic. Two hours outside can save you from long hours of feeling down.

  • Be physically active

Anxiety and stress worsen SAD symptoms. Biking, hitting the gym, playing your favorite sports and doing other physical activities release your happy hormones that ultimately improve your mood. At least 30 minutes of exercise thrice a week will not only ease your depressive symptoms but it will also offset your weight gain.

  • Make your environment brighter

It is believed that SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight which causes a disruption in the circadian rhythm of the body. Opening your blinds will allow more natural light in your room during winter days. It is also best to remove tree branches and other things that block the sunlight.

  • Get adequate sleep

Get a good night's sleep for seven to nine hours so that you do not feel sleepy during the day.

Don't let the cold season stop you from enjoying the beauty of life. Talk with a professional who will discuss your options so that you don't have to hide until spring.

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