Do you find that you develop feelings of intense sadness that seem to develop around early fall and subside or disappear in spring or summer? Many of us can relate to the dread of waking up to cold, dark mornings and limited amount of sunlight before darkness resumes again. However, for a small portion of the population this dread turns into clinical depression and can lead to some very severe symptoms. Some of these symptoms are:
Weight loss/ gain (largely due to an increased craving for and consumption of carbohydrates ,sweets)
Intense, persistent feelings of sadness
Changes in body sensations
Thoughts of death or suicide
If you feel you experience these symptoms but only in specific seasons, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Though most common in younger females SAD can affect anyone.
The exact causes of SAD are unknown. It is believed that people who have a history of depression themselves or in their family may be at greater risk for SAD. It is also suggested that people with SAD have an imbalance in a brain chemical called serotonin which is a chemical that alters your mood. In addition, SAD sufferers may overproduce the hormone, melatonin, which regulates one’s sleep.
There are several ways to treat SAD and a multi-tiered approach may be most successful. Light therapy is one way to help SAD sufferers get more of the light that they are without during the fall/winter seasons. It involves sitting in or next to a light box routinely. Other helpful measures are taking an anti-depressant medication. Also, SAD sufferers may benefit from counseling services.
If you or a loved one relates to these symptoms it is important to seek help from the appropriate healthcare provider. There are ways to minimize your symptoms and get through these tireless dark, cold months without it feeling like a painful eternity. Do not hesitate to reach out so you can feel better!