Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is normal for people to go through a biological shift as the seasons change. The change in internal body clocks, and our circadian rhythm, causes the body and the brain to be out of synchronicity with daily routines and schedules. Studies suggest the imbalances are greater in people living further away from the equator. This is due to less daylight and sunshine.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is linked with seasons. Although this type of depression can form in the summer months, SAD is more common in the fall and winter months. Late fall or early winter triggers the onset when sunlight is reduced. Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms can last for 40 percent of the year, but they usually improve in spring and summer.

Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Understanding Seasonal Depression

Seasonal affective disorder is not just the winter blues. The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), categorizes it as a Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Patterns.

People with SAD sometimes describe the symptoms as incapacitating. These symptoms can impact daily functioning and affect everyday activities. Symptoms are often overwhelming and can cause mood swings.

In the USA, around five percent of adults suffer from SAD. Though it affects both genders, women are more susceptible.

SAD also called winter depression can trouble all of us. However, seasonal affective disorder is most prevalent in the 18 to 30 age group. The symptoms are similar to those associated with more common forms of depression.

Some symptoms of SAD are obvious, while others are more subtle. Symptoms can be mild or severe and some will give rise to others. There are usually several symptoms at the same time.

What are the Symptoms of SAD?

SAD can trouble all of us. However, seasonal affective disorder is most prevalent in the 18 to 30 age group. The symptoms are similar to those associated with more common forms of depression. Some symptoms of SAD are obvious, while others are more subtle. Symptoms can be mild or severe and some will give rise to others. There are usually several symptoms at the same time.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of SAD:

Disinterest or displeasure

Activities that are usually pleasurable and enjoyable no longer are that way. They are now uninteresting and we don’t feel like doing them anymore. We can’t be bothered.

Change in Appetite

Some individuals will have a sudden increase or decrease in appetite. These symptoms can lead to unhealthy weight gain or weight loss.

Changing sleeping patterns

Irregular sleep patterns can create a cycle of oversleeping and being overtired. Oversleeping causes lethargy, which manifests as a loss of energy and fatigue. We lack the motivation, energy levels are too low to do anything, even simple tasks.

Incoherence and indecision

SAD patients struggle to think clearly and express themselves or communicate coherently. Their thinking becomes disrupted, making it difficult to stay focused and express themselves clearly. This gives rise to indecision and results in self-defense comments such as “whatever” and “I don’t care.”

Restlessness and discontent

Malcontent and restlessness can trigger purposeless or aimless physical activity such as fidgeting. Movement and speech can be slow and appear exaggerated.

Isolating Behavior

There is a difference between wanting to be left alone and wanting to be away from other people. They seem to be the same, however, they aren’t. Wanting to be alone implies time to regroup, re-energize and relax or calm down. Isolating to be away from other people may mean that there is no re-energizing or relaxing. Patients who are feeling depressed can still feel restless and malcontent while isolating, dwelling on negative feelings.

Negative Feelings

A depressed mood and feeling sad without being able to explain why is common. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt can affect our mental health and be dangerous. When we don’t understand what’s happening, we often blame ourselves for imaginary problems and difficult situations.

Thoughts of Suicide

Building on the negative feelings caused by not understanding ourselves, serving no purpose and feeling worthless, the next seemingly “logical” step is suicide. This goes hand in hand with wanting to isolate and be away from people whom we perceive we add no benefit, and rather that we are a burden on all.

If you have thoughts of committing suicide, talk with a loved one immediately, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) ASAP.

Treatment

Discuss any concerns with your health care provider. The happy news is you can treat SAD. You’re not alone!

Additional Reading: SAD Treatment: Light Therapy

Blue Sky Counseling Omaha – Mental Health Counseling

I, Carly Spring, M.S., LIMHP, LADC, CPC, offer my specialized expertise to assist in the healing process to anyone who may be experiencing and suffering from a vast spectrum of mental health issues. Such mental health issues include behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, addiction issues, and life transitions. I believe strongly in applying a holistic perspective addressing your whole person not just the bits and pieces of you. Contact us with any questions or to discuss mental health services in Omaha today.