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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)



Seasonal Affective Disorder {SAD} is a type of depression that comes with the seasons. Typically, symptoms heighten during the fall and winter and can later decrease in the spring and summer. It is possible for depressive episodes to occur in the summer months; however, this is less common. SAD is not a separate mental health disorder - it is actually a type of depression that demonstrates a repetitive seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must show signs of major depression for at least two years.


Some symptoms of major depression may include:


  • Feeling depressed all or most of the day

  • Having little to no energy

  • Experiencing minimal interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Appetite changes

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Feeling sluggish

  • Experiencing difficulties falling or staying asleep

  • Having difficulties focusing or concentrating

  • Experiencing thoughts of death or suicide


Symptoms of Winter SAD:


  • Hypersomnia {Excessive time spent sleeping}

  • Weight gain

  • Social withdrawal

  • Less energy

  • Requiring additional sleep


Symptoms of Summer SAD:


  • Weight loss

  • Minimal appetite

  • Insomnia {Persistent problems falling and staying asleep}

  • Anxiety

  • Agitation or irritability



What causes SAD?


The exact cause of SAD is unknown. However, some factors may include:

  • Melatonin levels - season changes may disrupt your body’s balance of melatonin which causes a change in overall sleep patterns and mood

  • Serotonin levels – Serotonin {a brain chemical that affects mood} may decrease due to less sun exposure

  • Vitamin D levels - less sun exposure may cause Vitamin D levels to decrease

  • Biological clock – a decrease in sunlight may affect your body’s natural rhythms, which could lead to experiencing symptoms of depression


Did you know?


  • SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than men

  • Younger adults have a greater risk of SAD than older adults

  • Children and teens can also develop SAD

  • Individuals with a family history of depression are more likely to develop SAD

  • Living far from the equator may result in SAD due to decreased sunlight during the winter months and longer days during summer


What can I do to treat SAD?


  • Light therapy through exposure to artificial light

  • Antidepressant medications

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy {CBT}

  • Sun exposure

  • Regular exercise

  • Eat a balanced diet in order to keep your energy up and potential mood swings at bay


Seasonal Affective Disorder can be overwhelming, specifically during this time of year. However, the good news is that you can take control and ultimately find ways to manage SAD. One day at a time, one step at a time!

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Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

 

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