Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a predictable change in mood that comes with the change of seasons, usually hitting people in the fall. Some 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with this condition, and many more probably experience it without a diagnosis.
Sings of SAD include feelings of depression, cravings for comfort foods which may lead to weight gain, trouble falling asleep or oversleeping, low energy, trouble concentrating, and feeling listless.
For many people, this is a set of feelings and experiences that comes on every fall and lasts until spring.
Why we need awareness
If you experience SAD and don’t know that it is a recognized health condition, you may come up with explanations for it based on your circumstances. You might think that you need to change your job, end your relationships, or make other big changes in your life which may not actually be needed. You could choose to respond to it with lifestyle choices that are not wise. You might think you have to just suffer through it, even if you recognize that it’s a pattern in your life.
Identifying these feelings as Seasonal Affective Disorder is the first step toward taking action to help yourself feel better.
Equally, you might recognize this pattern in someone you know. If they do not understand the part SAD plays in their life, it could be helpful to them for you to point it out.
Fort this reason, the month of November is set aside to build awareness of the condition.
Counseling is one of the options for treating SAD, but there are other possibilities.
Light therapy, for example, can help many people lesson their experience of SAD. One of the reasons some people feel sad during the winter is that there is less sunlight, and less light generally. This has a physical effect on our bodies. In particular, less sunlight during the day can cause a drop in levels of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter hormone that helps to keep us on an even emotional keel.
Just moving your desk close to a window can give you enough light to reduce symptoms. Taking your morning coffee out onto the porch to get some extra sun may help. And there are also artificial lights which provide more intensive treatment. These lights provide 10,000 lux, a measurement of light. This is enough for a therapeutic effect.
Talk with your doctor about light therapy.
For some people, Vitamin D does the trick. This is the vitamin our bodies develop from sunlight. It is also available in foods, and your doctor may recommend supplements. A blood test can tell you whether you have a deficiency of Vitamin D.
In some cases, your physician might recommend medication.
The important thing to know is that you do not have to just suffer through SAD. Talk with your doctor and make a plan.