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How Real is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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How Real is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

January 03
15:36 2018

Image result for person bundled up

At this time of year, here in the United States, the daylight hours are shorter and nighttime hours are longer. In some areas, it also seems like there are more cloudy days this time of year than in the warmer times of the year.

Some people claim to suffer from the affects of this season change. The condition is referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

I once worked with a young man who claimed to have seasonal affective disorder. He said that he suffered from seasonal depression due to there being less sunlight. He had gone to college in Colorado where it was sunnier than in northern Kentucky and he said he still suffered from SAD, but not as severely. Some of the others we worked with said that SAD was a bunch of bunk and that it was just an excuse for their behavior.

I lived most of my life in Arizona where we averaged over 300 sun days a year. Here in northern Kentucky, we average over 220 cloud days a year. I know that after several days of cloudy skies that it does make you feel gloomy, but depressed?

So, is seasonal affective disorder real?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD.”

According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.”

What are the symptoms?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.”

According to the Mayo Clinic:

“In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide”

Seasonal affective disorder is real and often leads to social withdrawal which only adds to the complications of depression. It can affect school work and job performance, has been tied to substance abuse and more.

There are four major ways of treating SAD and sometimes, the treatments are used in combination with each other. They are:

  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Vitamin D

If you think you may be suffering SAD, or someone you know, you need to speak to your doctor. Getting help is important to help you cope with and hopefully overcome this disorder which can be more crippling and dangerous than most people realize.

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