Updated: Jan 24, 2021
For many, the cooling of temperatures and falling of leaves is a time of not only seasonal change, but the precursor to a joyful holiday season. Autumn and winter hold some of the most fun and happy traditions of the year. Costumes, candy, feasts, gifts, family, and the spirit of giving intoxicate our lives and bring on ultimate happiness.
There are some, however, who dread this change to the year. Not because they are Grinches or Scrooges, but because it affects their mind and body so heavily.
Seasonal affective disorder is a depression related to the changes in the seasons. It usually occurs during the fall and winter months. Depression is a mood disorder that causes prolonged periods of sadness and worthlessness. Seasonal affective disorder can occur during the spring and summer months, but it is not as common.
For this disorder, symptoms tend to start off mild and get more severe over time. An overall list of symptoms include:
● Feeling depressed
● Losing interest
● Low energy
● Sleep problems
● Changes in weight/appetite
● Feeling sluggish/agitated
● Inability to focus
● Feeling hopeless, worthless, and/or guilty
● Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
It is important to know that this disorder can affect people differently depending on seasons their disorder becomes more pervasive. A person with Fall/Winter SAD will usually experience specific symptoms such as oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, and tiredness. A person suffering from Spring/Summer SAD will likely suffer from insomnia, have a poor appetite, lost a lot of weight, and/or be frequently agitated or anxious.
Sure, these are all things people experience during the change in season. However, keep in mind that a person who is affected by SAD will experience these symptoms to a severe degree that will affect their day to day life.
Important note about Seasonal Affective Disorder and Bipolar Disorder:
When a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder also experiences seasonal affective disorder, it can worsen their symptoms. Spring/Summer SAD can cause a bipolar individual to have more manic or hypomanic episodes. Fall/Winter SAD can bring heavier depressive episodes. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder should speak with their doctors about treatment options to help relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
There are many medications used to help combat seasonal affective disorder. Psychotherapy and light therapy are also common among treatment options. Speak with your mental health professional to find the best treatment options for you.
Depression During the Holidays:
While depression can be seasonal, it also affects others year round, and the holiday season can make living with the disorder even harder. According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression. If you are one of those people, know that you are not alone in your fight. If you believe you or someone you know are suffering from depression or seasonal affective disorder, seek help from a mental health professional.
By: Better Me by Dr. B
Editor: Ariel Thompson
Medical Reviewer: Dr. Tiffany Bell D.O.