It’s that time of year again. No, not Fall, it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) kick-off season. Here we go again! Let’s be proactive this year.
As a child, my Mom said I had the Winter Blues and as an adult, I learned the clinical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder AKA SAD. Some people will tell you everyone is cranky in the winter because it’s cold, but there is a little more to it.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD?
A mild to progressive form of depression during the colder months of the year. A decrease in sunlight often affects certain people negatively. While SAD mostly happens during Fall and Winter months, some people experience this during the Spring/Summer seasons as well, however, this is less common. I’m going to focus on the Fall/Winter SAD since this is something, I have personal experience with.
SAD zaps your energy and leaves you feeling low without really knowing why. According to the American Psychiatric Association SAD affects around 5% of the US population, most of whom are women. The SAD blues occurs for about 40% of the year.
- Circadian Rhythm (our 24-hour internal clock cycle) is thrown off by the reduction in sunlight during the colder months of the year.
- Melatonin (hormone regulating sleep and wake schedule) levels are disrupted by the seasonal change
- Serotonin (feel-good chemical in your brain that affects mood) levels drop when we get less sunlight. A drop in serotonin can trigger sadness and depression
- Vitamin D is great all year round, but sometimes the lack of sunlight can leave you deficient. Low vitamin D can trigger mood changes and possibly anxiety and depression.
- Decrease in energy
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feeling sluggish
- Sleep Issues
- Oversleeping and still feeling tired
- Overeating carbohydrates
- Weight Gain
- Desire for isolation
- Increase in anxiety and depression
- Mood Swings
When the temperature starts to drop in September and the leaves start to fall, I know what is right around the corner, my cold weather funk. I don’t know how to explain it, but its something I feel every year. Once it starts getting dark at 4 PM my SAD turns on a switch, like clockwork.
Personally, for me, the following things begin, sleepiness, insomnia, sex drive decreases, I overeat and I hate leaving the house after dark. I walk around in a fog and I am ready for bed earlier and earlier. My depression and anxiety start acting up and I’m dragging all day long.
I did a lot of research on SAD and then brought up the conversation up with my mental health professional. She asked a few questions and ultimately agreed that SAD played a part in my mental health. We worked out a game plan on how to be proactive and treat it.
- Music therapy
- Art therapy
- Get 2 Hours of sunlight
- Light Therapy lamps
- Vitamin D
I relocated my writing desk to a room in my house that is drenched with sunlight. I spend most of the morning here, so it helps me take in as much sunlight as possible. Our bodies are like solar panels, we need to absorb the sunlight and store it to use later.
In the Fall, while it’s still relatively nice out I go for walks on sunny days, there is something about the sun hitting your skin that makes you feel amazing. I try to exercise more in the winter when I don’t stay outside for very long.
I bought a light therapy lamp. At first, I thought it was going to be ridiculous, but I used it for a week and it helps.
If you or someone you know has some of these symptoms its always a great idea to talk to a health care professional about your options, or to rule out anything else. I am not a professional, just someone who personally is going through this, and the above blog is based on my opinion as a patient.
If you are struggling with anxiety, please check out how to cope