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  • Tanisha Herrin

Seasonal Affective Disorder: When Unusual Sadness Occurs during Seasonal Changes

Seasonal changes are something people look forward to, but for others, it may be something dreadful because it brings down their mood. It can be more than just mood changes but affect how they feel and view things around them. Unfortunately, it may be experienced around the same time of year such as autumn or daylight savings. If this sounds familiar, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is SAD and who does it affect?

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that develops during season change. Many experience related symptoms during the fall and winter months, but it is not out of the question to experience them during spring or summer. Some may experience problems in relationships, weight gain from cravings, feeling tired or sleeping more often, and heaviness in their arms and legs.

SAD is not considered a mild form of depression, but many feel it is depression that occurs after remission during the year. People may experience hormonal changes affecting the chemical production of the body. The body creates chemicals that help you sleep and regulate mood. It is believed production of these chemicals is off balance during seasonal changes.

Often, it occurs in the fall and winter for many people due to shorter days (less sunlight). Studies claim females are more susceptible to SAD along with those who have a family history of depression or if they experience depression symptoms during the year.

Should you contact your doctor or handle it yourself?

When your symptoms start affecting daily activities, or you find it difficult to get things done, it won’t hurt to get an opinion from your doctor. Discuss what you’ve been experiencing. It helps to document symptoms and note how long they persist. If they persist after several days consecutively, seek help especially if unhealthy actions such as substance abuse, self-harm, or suicide persist.

You can get help for your symptoms at any time. There are licensed counselors, therapists, and mental health professionals available to help you. There are free community sources for mental health concerns you can inquire through your local health department. Employers may offer options through an Employee Assistance Program whether you have health insurance.

When preparing to see your doctor think about potential causes, treatment ideas, and other resources you want to discuss or questions to ask. Such information will be helpful for the doctor when considering further assessment or mental health specialist referral. Treatment options the doctor may discuss with you include medication (antidepressants), psychotherapy (talk therapy), and light therapy.

Is there something you can do right now?

Seeing a doctor is a great option, but there are other things to think about that can make a difference. Think about your lifestyle and what changes you can make to things such as eating and sleeping habits, minimizing stress, getting more sunlight or natural light into your day, exercise, and ways to help you relax.

It may take time for symptoms to subside but don’t get upset if they linger for a while. Avoid brushing them off as just “feeling blue” and be proactive by doing something productive. Avoid substances such as alcohol and drugs and adopt healthy ways to help you manage seasonal affective disorder now and in the future.

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