Know the signs of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder can impact many as winter looms.

We can all feel a little down when it’s cold and cloudy outside, but how do you know if it’s just a “blah” day or if it might be something else?

The National Institute of Mental Health states that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that changes with the seasons. SAD usually begins in late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer months. While it is usually much more common during the winter, summer episodes of SAD can arise. In order to be diagnosed with SAD, a person has to meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.

Symptoms of major depression include

Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day, feeling hopeless, worthless, and sluggish is a major sign of depression. Other symptoms include feeling agitated, having low energy, problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and changes in appetite or weight. In addition losing interest in activities once enjoyed, and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide are symptoms.

Symptoms of the winter pattern of SAD include

Having low energy, hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), overeating, weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, and wanting to hibernate (social withdrawal) is a symptom of winter SAD.

Symptoms of the summer SAD include

Poor appetite, weight loss, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, and episodes of violent behavior is a sign of summer SAD.

Some risk factors associated with SAD

Living far from the equator, family history, having depression or bipolar, young age, and being female increase the risk of developing SAD. SAD is diagnosed four times more frequently in women than men.

While the causes of SAD are still unknown, researchers have found some biological indications. People with SAD: may have trouble regulating one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood such as serotonin, may overproduce the hormone melatonin, and may produce less Vitamin D.

Since SAD seems to be a combination of factors (physiological, environmental and psychological) an integrated approach to treatment is important. If diagnosed with SAD, there are treatment options available. Medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, and Vitamin D are all used to treat this disorder.

Michigan State University Extension has information and articles on the importance of Vitamin D and other information to help you stay healthy.

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