Do you find yourself struggling with a depressed mood nearly every day during the winter? Do you feel sluggish, agitated, or lacking the energy to do activities you once enjoyed? Are you having trouble sleeping throughout the summer nights or maintaining a steady appetite? These are a few symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder to make note of especially if these occur every day throughout the season of summer and/or winter.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or recurrent major depressive episodes with regular seasonal patterns (a depressive category found in the DSM-5), appears most often during the late fall or early winter seasons and usually during summer as well. SAD is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons and begins and ends at the same times every year.
There is not a specific cause as to why SAD occurs, but a few reasons behind it can possibly be due to your biological clock along with the decrease in sunlight for your body. As well as the low serotonin levels which affects your mood and low melatonin levels that plays a role in your sleep patterns.
During the summer and late fall/early winter seasons, symptoms of SAD include:
- Depressed mood, nearly every day
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia) or oversleeping
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite in which carbohydrates are mainly craved
- Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
- Difficulty in maintaining focus
- Frequent thoughts of suicide and/or death
- Weight gain
It is normal to have some of these symptoms, but if it occurs nearly every day, you feel depressed, and you cannot get yourself to be motivated to do daily activities, it is suggested to seek guidance from a doctor or counselor, so that you are able to work on maintaining a steady mood change during the seasonal transitions.
One empirically studied treatment for the management of SAD is the combination of therapy with a counselor, along with bright light therapy. Bright light therapy or phototherapy is done using a special light apparatus created with unique blue or white lighting. Spending a certain amount of time exposed to these lights can correct an individual’s misaligned circadian rhythms which result in an antidepressant effect (Evans, M., Rohan, K., Sitnikov, L., Mahon, J., Nillni, Y., Lindsey, K., & Vacek, K. 2013). Using light therapy concomitantly with a therapist can help a person achieve maximum results.
If you have any further questions or want to set up an appointment with one of Olive Branch’s counselors, please don’t hesitate to call us at (708)-633-8000.
Evans, M., Rohan, K., Sitnikov, L., Mahon, J., Nillni, Y., Lindsey, K., & Vacek, K. (2013). Cognitive change across cognitive-behavior and light therapy treatments for Seasonal affective disorder: What accounts for clinical status the next winter? Cognitive Therapy Resources. 37. 1201-1213.
Mayo Clinic, (2017). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research