As the seasons change and the days grow shorter, many of us experience shifts in our mood and energy levels. It’s a common phenomenon often overlooked, but for some individuals, these changes can trigger a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You’re not alone if you’ve ever felt down, lazy, or overwhelmed during the winter months.
The good news is that Integrative Healthcare Center is here to shed some light on this condition and provide alternative solutions to help you cope with SAD and thrive year-round.
In this article, we will discuss how to identify seasonal affective disorder, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options with the help of the Integrative Healthcare Center.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Have you ever felt less energetic on a rainy day or during a seasonal change? It’s normal to experience a shift in mood; even feeling sad during such times is usual. However, this feeling usually only lasts briefly. You can continue with your routine and responsibilities despite feeling this way.
If, on the other hand, you find that your mood changes are more severe or last longer than usual, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider. You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a specific type of depression that happens at particular times of the year, usually during fall and winter when there is less natural sunlight. It is sometimes called “seasonal depression” or the “winter blues.” SAD is associated with changes in daylight and is more prevalent in regions with reduced sunlight during winter.
6 Possible Causes for SAD
The exact causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are not specific yet, but several factors likely play a role in its development. These causes are often interconnected, and individuals may be more vulnerable to SAD if they have multiple risk factors.
Some of the significant contributing factors, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include:
- Biological Clock: Disruptions in the body’s internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, play a significant role in SAD. Reduced exposure to natural light during the winter can disrupt the body’s internal clock, affecting the production of essential neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which regulate mood and sleep.
- Lack of Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. During winter, reduced sunlight exposure may lead to decreased serotonin production.
- Melatonin Levels: This hormone helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. It is produced in higher quantities when it’s dark. During winter, reduced sunlight exposure can lead to increased melatonin production, which can cause fatigue and low energy symptoms.
- Genetics: SAD may have a genetic component, as the condition often runs in families. If you have a family history of SAD or other forms of depression, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing it.
- Environmental Factors: Geography plays a role in the prevalence of SAD. People who live in regions with significant changes in daylight hours during the year, particularly those at higher latitudes, can also develop it.
- Hormonal Changes: Some hormonal factors may contribute to SAD. For example, an article by Yale states that women are more likely to be diagnosed with it, suggesting the involvement of hormonal fluctuations.
Common Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression distinguished by recurring patterns linked to specific seasons, typically lasting approximately 4 to 5 months annually. While SAD symptoms can vary among individuals, the American Psychiatric Association outlines potential symptoms such as:
- Persistent depressed mood
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lifeless or agitated
- Changes in appetite
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts of death or suicide
How to Treat SAD
While there are several methods to treat this type of depression, the most common are:
Light therapy – or phototherapy, is among the most influential and widely used treatments. It involves exposure to a specific bright light that simulates natural sunlight.
Psychotherapy – This valuable approach can help people with SAD better understand their illness, manage their symptoms, and develop coping strategies.
Antidepressant medications – SSRIs are often the first line of treatment for seasonal affective disorder. These drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D – Sometimes is suggested as a possible treatment for SAD because there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and symptoms of depression.
5 Differences Between SAD and Other Types of Depression
Throughout this blog, we have learned that SAD is a subtype of depression that causes depressive episodes that follow a seasonal pattern. But how does it differ from the other types of depression?
Although SAD shares some common characteristics with other types of depression, several vital differences set it apart:
1. Seasonal Pattern
SAD has a distinct seasonal pattern, with symptoms recurring at specific times of the year, usually in the late fall and winter. Other types of depression, such as major depressive disorder, do not have this seasonal component.
2. Symptom Onset and Remission
Symptoms begin in the same season each year and remit spontaneously with the change of season. In contrast, other types of depression can appear at anytime and do not follow a seasonal pattern.
3. Environmental Triggers
Reduced sunlight during certain seasons triggers or worsens SAD.
4. Symptom Profile
While the core symptoms of depression, such as low mood, fatigue, and changes in sleep and appetite, are present in all mental health conditions, SAD may also exhibit some distinctive features, including oversleeping, overeating (particularly cravings for carbohydrates), and weight gain.
It is a relatively rare condition because it appears at a specific time of year and affects less of the population.
How Integrative Healthcare Center Can Help You
If you suffer from SAD or any other form of depression, there are alternative approaches that you can take to alleviate your symptoms. At Integrative Health Care Center, we believe true healing involves addressing the root causes of your condition and nurturing your mind, body, and spirit. Here are how our treatment options can help you:
- We help support your mental health through psychotherapy methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy sessions, behavioral health care, and medication management.
- We offer exercise guidance that can help prevent and alleviate mild to moderate symptoms.
- We make more revolutionary solutions available, such as Deep TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), used to stimulate brain regions associated with major depressive disorder and other depressive disorders.
- Including alternative approaches, such as meditation, nutrition, and advanced medical technology like biofeedback, can also be beneficial.
Integrative Healthcare Center and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Many people find Seasonal Affective Disorder challenging to cope with during the colder, darker months. We believe that depression shouldn’t control your life, and our mission is to provide unwavering support to guide you toward lasting relief and restore your emotional well-being.
At Integrative Health Care Center, we strive to empower you to rise above the constraints of any depression. Our comprehensive and integrated approach focuses on managing symptoms and equipping you with invaluable tools to thrive year-round.