‘Tis The Season To Be Aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during a particular season. Some people experience seasonal depression in spring or summer, but the fall into the winter months are by far the most common times for symptoms to occur.
Like major depression, the symptoms of SAD may include an overall depressed mood, lack of energy and feelings of hopelessness, as well as changes in appetite, sleep patterns and ability to concentrate. Some people report a loss of pleasure in once-enjoyed activities, and in extreme cases, even thoughts of death or suicide.
While it’s natural to experience a slowing of energy as the amount of sunlight in each day diminishes, or an occasional slump in mood, SAD is a condition that causes a persistent disruption in everyday life.
It’s not known exactly what causes SAD, but researchers have identified contributing factors. The reduction in sunlight in winter throws our biological clocks off and reduces both serotonin and melatonin, brain chemicals that regulate mood and sleep. In general, young women have an increased risk of developing SAD, as well as those who have a family history of depression or live farther from the equator.
It’s time to seek professional help when the systems persist for days at a time, when you are withdrawing socially and not experiencing joy in activities, or when you notice major shifts in eating or sleeping. Certainly if you are having suicidal thoughts or using drugs or alcohol to manage your symptoms, you are urged to contact your primary care physician or make an appointment with a mental health professional.
You and your therapist or physician will get the most out of your appointment if you can provide some information regarding your symptoms. Try to take notes on the frequency and nature of your symptoms, and bring those to your appointment. You should also mention any other health concerns you have, mental or physical. You might need a physical exam or lab tests to rule out a physical cause for your depression.
Your doctor will discuss options with you, which may include medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy) or light therapy.
In the meantime, it might be helpful to go outside more often to maximize your sunlight exposure, and add physical exercise and relaxation techniques to your routine. Avoid drugs and alcohol, and try to get plenty of sleep. Remember, seeking help is a strong, proactive move.
Wilmington Psychotherapy specializes in a range of mental health services for clients of all ages. To learn more about Jim Doxey, including his experience and credentials, visit wilmingtonpsychotherapy.com or call (910) 344-0481.