There are around 10 million Americans who are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Around 20 percent more people may have a mild form of SAD. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of mood disorder that is characterized by depression. SAD occurs at the same time every year — it usually starts about the time that the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder. By the time spring or early summer rolls around, the symptoms disappear.
Everyone has minor bouts of the "winter blues" from time-to-time. Gloomy weather can make anyone feel more sluggish and down. So, how can you tell when the winter blues equal a SAD diagnosis? The key is the degree to which the seasonal mood changes affect your life. With the winter blues, you might feel more lethargic than normal, but it won't keep you from getting out of bed and going to work. However, if you have SAD, it might seem impossible to get out of bed in the morning, so you miss work. Or, you can't focus on schoolwork, so your grades to plummet. Experiencing these types are problems are an indicator that you might have more than just the winter blues. Here are some of the warning signs of SAD.
#1 Sleep Problems
Sleep problems are common in seasonal affective disorder. Sleep and mood are intimately connected. People who have SAD may have insomnia or the opposite — excessive sleepiness. You might sleep so much more than usual that it results in being late to work. Or, you might have difficulty falling asleep, which leaves you feeling tired and unproductive at work.
#2 Frequent Sadness or Loneliness
With the usual winter blues, you might feel sad or lonely occasionally. If you have SAD, you will probably feel sad and lonely more often than not. The feelings stick around and are hard to get rid of.
#3 You Stop Doing The Things You Normally Enjoy
When you have SAD, you might no longer enjoy the things that you used to look forward to. You now dread social activities when you used to be a social butterfly. Maybe you have withdrawn from friends and family and now spend a considerable amount of time alone in your room.
#4 Excessive Fatigue
If you have SAD, you might feel exhausted and fatigued during the day — even when you sleep much more than usual. People with SAD generally have less energy in spite of spending more time asleep.
#5 Weight Gain
Have you been craving more sweet foods or eating a lot more starches than normal? People who have SAD typically gain five percent or more of their body weight each fall and winter. The combination of fatigue and cravings for food high in carbohydrates results in weight gain for many people with SAD.
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you have very many of the above symptoms of SAD, then it is essential to seek treatment from a mental health professional. I strongly recommend against self-treatment and self-diagnosis because SAD is a severe mood disorder that can have serious complications when not treated properly. For more information about treatments for SAD, contact us here at Relationship Therapy Center.
Cathy Bruno, LMFT works with individuals and couples experiencing Grief/Loss, Trauma/PTSD, Sexual Trauma, Spiritual/Existential issues, Women’s Issues, Major Life Transitions, Personal Growth and Development, Depression & Anxiety.