What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Ironic how that the acronym for seasonal affective disorder is SAD because that’s exactly how it makes you feel, sad.
Life naturally slows down in winter. The days grow shorter, light becomes scarce, and we respond by planting ourselves in front of the television or hiding under the covers to stay warm. Sure, that seems pretty common among most of us, but how do you know when you’ve gone from staying cozy to becoming a recluse?
SAD is a category of depression that emerges in particular seasons of the year. Most people notice SAD symptoms starting in the fall and increasing during the winter months, but a few people experience it during spring and summer.
SAD can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, taking a toll on all aspects of your life from your relationships and social life to work, school, and your sense of self-worth. You may feel like a completely different person to who you are when the sun is shining.
Symptoms of SAD are quite similar to those of depression, but here are some signs to look out for:
a persistent low mood.
a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities.
feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.
feeling stressed or anxious.
a reduced sex drive.
becoming less sociable.
less active than normal.
feel lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
sleep for longer than normal and find it hard to get up in the morning.
find it difficult to concentrate.
have an increased appetite, some people have a particular craving for foods containing lots of carbohydrates and end up gaining weight as a result.
While the exact causes of SAD are unclear, most theories attribute the disorder to the reduction of daylight hours in winter. The shorter days and reduced exposure to sunlight that occurs in winter are thought to affect the body by disrupting circadian rhythms, production of melatonin, and production of serotonin.
Also, some people are more at risk to suffer from SAD than others. While 3 out of 4 sufferers of SAD are women, men often experience more severe symptoms. In most cases, winter SAD is first diagnosed in people aged 18 to 30 and is less likely to occur as you get older.
If you believe you are suffering from SAD and the symptoms are persisting for longer than just a bad mood, it’s time to reach out for help.