Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the snow and winter draw closer and it becomes darker outside it can be challenging to keep the light and warmth inside of us on. For some this may be the time when they start experiencing feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is called such due to the correlation between the onset of symptomology and the change of the seasons, more commonly when going into the winter months. To be diagnosed with SAD an individual must experience this seasonal onset of a major depressive episode for two consecutive years. Full criteria for a major depressive episode must be met for two consecutive weeks and only occur during the particular season not otherwise throughout the year.

Symptoms of Major Depression, first or second symptoms must be present and at least 5 others

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in most things
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleep (excessive or deprived)
  • Significant changes in weight (loss or gain)
  • Difficulty concentrating or indecisive
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Winter Pattern of Seasonal Affective Disorder SymptomsSummer Patter of Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
Low energy Hypersomnia
Overeating
Weight gain
Craving carbohydrates
Social withdrawal
Poor appetite
Insomnia
Agitation
Restlessness
Anxiety
Episodes of violent behavior

SAD affects about 5 percent of adults in the United States. That number is reported prior to the effects of being further isolated in the winter due to the current pandemic. People have been isolated to different extremes in the last seven months but have been able to be outside in nature as a way to break up their time spent inside. The wintertime drastically reduces the amount of time we typically spend outside but now we are also being encouraged for our physical health to be further isolated. Unfortunately, the toll that can take on our mental health can be just as significant and needs to be treated as such. People who have never experienced a depressive episode may find themselves experiencing some of the above symptoms as they take on the many stressors of the nation and close environments, have more time alone to think and less interaction with nature and exposure to sunlight. Check in with yourself and your loved ones, if you suspect that you or someone else may have Seasonal Affective Disorder recommended treatments include light therapy, psychotherapy, medication (SSRIs), and vitamin D. You can talk with your general practitioner to get started or contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates at 708-633-8000 to make an appointment with a licensed counselor today.

-Courtney, Graduate Intern

Olive Branch Counseling Associates

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th     ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.

Cassata, C. (2020, September 21). Why More People May Experience Seasonal Affective Disorder This Year. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-more-people-may-experience-seasonal-affective-disorder-this-year#:%7E:text=Reduced%20levels%20of%20sunlight%20can,incidences%20of%20seasonal%20affective%20disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health. (2020, October 27). NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Photo Credit: https://www.healthjourneys.com/blog/why-does-winter-make-me-feel-so-sad

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