Are you feeling unusually depressed, unmotivated or irritable? It may be due to the weather if you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is attributed to the change in seasons.
While SAD can affect people in all seasons of the year, the majority of sufferers experience symptoms during the fall and winter. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD can include feeling constantly depressed, sleeping problems, loss of energy and feeling sluggish.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it may be due to lack of sunlight, which in turn confuses your body’s biological clock and messes with the level of serotonin and melatonin in your body, which contribute to your mood and sleep patterns, the Mayo Clinic explains.
As you might guess, SAD is more common for people with residence farther from the equator, which contributes to having longer, darker days in the winter. Women are also at more at risk; the National Institute of Mental Health reports that women are four times more likely to suffer from SAD than men.
Because SAD stems from a lack of sunlight, one of the main treatments prescribed by doctors is light therapy. Sufferers of SAD sit near a bright light for about 20-30 minutes each day; other options include wearing a visor that produces light for roughly the same amount of time. Light therapy has been so successful for SAD patients that results are seen in a matter of hours or days, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Some of the other treatments that doctors recommend to help get through the season are to spend time in the sun when it is available, be active and work on the mind-body connection through activities such as yoga, meditation and music.
Although 10 million Americans suffer from SAD, the typical change in moods that most Midwesterners feel does not necessarily constitute as having the disease; an additional 10 to 20 percent have a mild form of SAD.
Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who discovered the disorder and did the subsequent research on it, suggests that there is a lesser version of SAD that could be considered the more common “winter blues”. However, those diagnosed with SAD could have more severe depression than nonseasonal depression, according to Dr. Rosenthal’s research.
So, how do you deal with SAD as a college student when you live in Iowa and have to walk everywhere? Study Break suggests that you keep your lights on and curtains open, consistently spend time with other people and keep a regular routine to get your biological clock in working order. In addition to that, Study Break also suggests exercise and encourages speaking to a professional about your feelings.
With spring just 34 days away, SAD sufferers can look forward to the end of short, dark days and anticipate the change in moods that will come with the change in seasons.