Before you know it, the days will be getting cooler and shorter. This annual change may bring relief from the summer months for some, but for others, the “winter blues” hit harder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) impacts about 5% of adults in the United States every year and can last approximately at the start of the fall months and extend through winter. SAD is more than feeling glum about the weather or season; it has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by the shorter daylight hours in the winter.
Identifying Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder often appears late fall or early winter but dissipates around spring. While this is the most common example, some people are affected the other way around: they experience symptoms that begin in the spring or summer instead! How can you tell if you are suffering from SAD? Symptoms include:
- Daily depression
- Loss of interest in activities
- Low energy
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sluggishness or agitation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
Fall and winter SAD and spring and summer SAD are fairly similar, but there are minor differences that have a big impact. While someone suffering from Fall and winter SAD may oversleep, those with spring and summer SAD typically experience bouts of insomnia. Fall and winter SAD can cause weight gain in some, while spring and summer SAD can lead to weight loss. Even those with bipolar disorder may experience symptoms of mania or hypomania in the spring and summer or depression through fall and winter.
Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder
It is normal to have a bad day, but prolonged periods of demotivation, weight and sleep fluctuations, and thoughts of suicide should be addressed with your doctor immediately. SAD can impact your quality life, but you can fight back. Doctors typically recommend you find a temporary therapist or set up a seasonal therapy plan to help navigate symptoms.
One of these therapies sometimes includes phototherapy, or “light therapy.” Phototherapy exposes you to light that mimics natural outdoor light. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medication, if your symptoms are severe enough, such as antidepressants like Wellbutrin XL or Aplenzin. Bear in mind that if you are starting an antidepressant, it can take several weeks to notice its full benefits. You will want to start treating before the SAD timing kicks in. There is also an off-chance that you will need to try different medications before you find the one that is best suited to you. For those with less severe cases of SAD, sometimes mind-body connection practices work. Examples of the mind-body connection include relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and music or art therapy.
Turning SAD to Glad
It can take time to navigate the best path for you when it comes to your seasonal affective disorder. Since SAD is connected to biochemical imbalances, each case will be unique per patient. It will be up to you and your doctor to work closely together to find what treatment is best for you, so that way your seasonal affective disorder can become the most wonderful time of the year once more.
If you have SAD or think you are exhibiting any symptoms, call the team at the BASS Medical Group. Our doctors have experience treating all types of SAD symptoms and can recommend the best treatment for you. Call (925) 350-4044 or visit bassmedicalgroup.com to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today.