Bye-bye Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Bye-bye Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Let me ask you some of the questions:

Do you hate winter?

Do cold days make you feel lethargic?

Do you oversleep during gloomy days?

Do you binge eat during winter?

Do you eagerly wait for winter to end soon?

As winter starts, some of us may experience the “winter blues”. Days become shorter, colder, and darker. We may face difficulties waking up on dark mornings and we want to go to bed earlier.

If you have any of the signs mentioned above then you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also known as winter depression because the symptoms are usually more severe in the winter.

In this article, we look at the causes, symptoms, risks, and the treatment of SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)?

SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health

SAD is a type of major depressive disorder. It comes and goes with the season and it typically recurs at the same time of the year. It is a seasonal depression. It is customarily related with winter depression that comes as soon as the fall starts and resolves in springtime. Some people might have summer depression as well with symptoms such as insomnia, decreased appetite and weight loss, and anxiety. 

According to Harvard Medical School, women experience SAD more often than men. SAD also develops in young people more often than in older adults. 

Symptoms of SAD 

The symptoms of SAD are similar to the symptoms of depression. The only difference is that the person is normal throughout other months of the year but as soon as the winter starts the symptoms arise.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Anxious feelings  
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Stress 
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Reduced concentration
  • Feeling of fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
  • Sleeping for too long
  • Increased appetite
  • Social withdrawal and a reduced interest in activities that once provided pleasure
  • Overeating and possible weight gain
  • Decreased libido
  • Suicidal thoughts

Some people may experience these symptoms in the summer months due to summer depression.  However, most of the people experience it during wintertime.

Risk factors of SAD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, distance from the equator (since regions farther to the north and south tend to have shorter days and less sunlight in winter), and a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Causes of SAD

  1. Reduction in the availability of food
  2. Reduction of sunlight
  3. Reduction of vitamin D production
  4. Reduction of  serotonin (a brain chemical) production 

Treatment of SAD

If a person is suffering from mild seasonal depression then they can follow the simple tips mentioned below:

  • Taking a really nice bath
  • Going to sleep at waking up at the same time
  • Practicing yoga and meditation
  • Exercising regularly
  • Going out with friends and family
  •  Eating well
  • Staying active
  • Going out 
  • Taking sunbath 
  • Going on a walk

However, if a person is suffering from severe seasonal depression then they need to consult a doctor. They may recommend light therapy or antidepressants depending on the severity of the symptoms present. Also, Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy, has been proven to be effective in the treatment of this disorder. 

“SAD can be debilitating for some people,” says Joyce Corsica, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Rush. “And if you’re suffering from it, it’s important to get help.”

SAD is more than just the winter blues. If you or somebody you know is experiencing the symptoms of SAD, don’t ignore it. Treatment is available so seek professionals help before symptoms get worse. 

16 thoughts on “Bye-bye Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  1. I haven’t hear of this disorder until this. I have some of the symptoms but I think it’s still normal.

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