You might not, “just be feeling sad”. This is the time of year when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may affect you or a loved one most. Many people may not have heard about “seasonal depression” and the realities of it.
I write this is in the hopes to provide validation. Your experiences are not abnormal- they may be a reaction to your environment. I hope that this information assures you that you are not alone. Many people experience symptoms of SAD, don’t be afraid to talk about it!
Lastly, I hope that you feel reassured that you don’t have to suffer. There are supportive tools that you can use to help reduce and manage the discomfort.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
I’m sure you’ve heard about “seasonal depression”, or maybe someone called it “the winter blues”. But, yes, it’s a real thing- and diagnostically speaking it is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 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.”
Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Typically symptoms of SAD becomes apparent during the months of October/November and can last through the winter into May. According to Mental Health America, “seasonal affective disorder affects about 5% of the population per year.” Studies have shown that women are more likely to experience seasonal depression when compared to men. The age of onset is typically between 20-30 years old, but in some cases occurs in those who are younger. Some of the symptoms experienced include, but are not limited to:
- Depressed mood
- Having low energy/fatigue
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in appetite
How to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder
Talk about it.
Whether it is you who is experiencing this shift in mood, or someone you love, the first step to finding peace is through validation. Use support from friends and family. Thousands of individuals struggle with this same experience, so opening the door to conversation about it helps you to know that you’re not alone.
You don’t have to ‘accept the fate’ of the winter blues. Reach out and find a therapist to work through the discomfort with! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been studied as a treatment for SAD and has proven significant positive results.
Talking with a therapist, such as one of the therapists in our office, about the current symptoms you are experiencing will help in the process of creating a treatment plan that will be most beneficial to you.
Schedule a consultation with one of our CBT Trained therapists from New York any time. We help clients all over NY with an office based in Westchester County, NY.
Part of the reason why we more commonly experience seasonal depression in the winter months is due to the lack of exposure to light. It’s cold (at least here in NY!) so it makes sense that because we are spending less time outside, we are lacking exposure to the sunlight. For years, light therapy or the use of light boxes has proven helpful to those who experience seasonal depression.
Here is a link to “The 10 Best Light Therapy Lamps of 2020”: https://www.verywellmind.com/best-light-therapy-lamps-4172537
Exercise produces serotonin in the brain which has the effect of reducing depression symptoms and improving mood. With the current circumstances it may be hard to go out to the gym, but get creative at home or sign up for an online class! Even just taking time out of the day to walk around the neighborhood for 10-20 minutes a day can help produce that feel-good-serotonin our brains are craving.
In more severe cases of SAD, anti-depression medication may be necessary to help ease some of the discomfort. Please speak with your doctor or another medical professional to see if this is something that would be beneficial for you.