Many individuals are known to go through short periods where they don’t feel like themselves; often, they feel sad or down but can never quite identify what may have caused the emotions. There is a strong correlation between changes in people’s moods aligning with when seasons are changing.
The term the ‘winter blues’ is a phrase many of us will hear several times a year when the days start to get shorter, darker, and colder. Many people will begin to feel depressed, anxious, and irritated during the winter month whilst feeling happy when the days start feeling warmer with more extended periods of daylight.
In some cases, individuals experience seasonal affective disorder so severely that they struggle to handle daily activities and keep their negative emotions and thoughts at bay. Suppose you happen to notice your or a loved one’s behaviour and significant mood shift when the seasons are changing. In that case, you may be suffering from the seasonal affective disorder, which has medically been classed as a form of depression.
Two types of SAD’s
While most individuals will experience SAD’s related symptoms during late fall to early winter, a few people share the ‘summer depression’. The two types of season affective disorder can be categorized as:
This type of SAD’s is referred to as the summer depression. Individuals who experience this type of SAD will feel depressed and down during the late spring and early summer periods. However, very few people experience this type of SAD’s.
The most common of the two is the winter depression. Symptoms will begin to arise during the late fall period, early winter. Occasionally individuals can be to show signs as early as the last summer month.
Symptoms to look out for
In most cases, the seasonal affective disorder will begin to appear during late fall/early winter and fade during early springtime. The form of depression is strongly characterized by its reoccurring seasonal pattern where symptoms can last five months.
The seasonal affective disorder can vary from moderate to severe symptoms, like an individual experiencing depression. Such symptoms to look out for include:
- Feeling down or sad for no reason
- Depressed, unhappy mood
- Loss in activities and hobbies
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased sleeping
- Increased fatigue and complete loss of energy
- Feeling irritable
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling guilty or worthless for no reason
- Strong beliefs relating to death
- Withdrawing from social activities
Causes of SAD
SAD’s is not entirely understood but is often linked to reduced sunlight exposure. However, no one is quite sure why it affects specific individuals over others. Scientists have suggested that certain hormones deep-rooted in the brain trigger attitude-related changes during specific changes within the year. Scientists have said they believe seasonal affective disorder may be related to this hormone change.
The leading theory is that due to the lack of sunlight during the winter months, our brains cannot make the expected rate of serotonin, a chemical linked to the brain pathway that helps regulate an individual’s moods. Lack of serotonin or a block in the path could result in interrupted hormone imbalance, which further results in the individual experiences unusual moods.
A second theory again linked to sunlight is that your body utilizes the sun to time various vital functions such as waking up. Therefore, when your strength and length of the sun is reduced to a lower level, your body clock is disrupted, leading to individuals experiencing additional seasonal affective disorder symptoms. SAD sometimes runs in families. SAD is more common in people who have relatives with other mental illnesses, such as major depression or schizophrenia.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder
There are various avenues an individual can choose from when it comes to treatment for SAD’s which can include:
- Light therapy
- Talk therapy, particularly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
- Antidepressant medication
- Vitamin D
- A combination of both
While this specific disorder will not last forever due to the ever-changing seasons, it will likely reoccur.
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from SAD’s, talk to a member of our team at Shoreline Recovery Centre. We will assess the severity of your symptoms and choose the appropriate treatment or combination of treatments specifically designed for your situation.