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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is among the rare mental health disorders that don’t get enough attention. If you have or are experiencing SAD, then you know how hard it can be to deal with everyday life during certain months. This mental health disorder can burden you primarily during the winter months.
However, SAD can also last for months to years at a time. So, what is this condition, really? How can you cope with SAD while still living a full life?
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a type of depressive disorder. This disorder usually affects individuals around the dark half of the year. When autumn and winter set in and the nights grow longer while the days grow shorter, some people experience mood changes. They also may experience changes in emotions and how they handle day-to-day activities.
However, it is important to note that while SAD is more commonly occurring during the winter months, people can experience this disorder during the summer months as well. When occurring during the summer months, this disorder is referred to as summer-pattern SAD. If it occurs during the winter, some doctors refer to SAD as winter depression.
SAD usually lasts around four to five months; however, it can occur every year during a person’s life. If this disorder goes without treatment, symptoms could get worse.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
It is important to remember that SAD is not classified as its own disorder. As mentioned previously, it is considered a depressive disorder. Therefore, some symptoms that occur when someone experiences major depressive disorder can also occur if they have SAD.
Symptoms may include:
- Feeling depressed almost every day, if not every day
- Sleeping problems like insomnia or oversleeping
- Changes in weight, like weight loss or unpredictable weight gain
- Loss of interest in daily activities or activities you used to enjoy
- Experiencing low energy or sluggishness
- Feeling agitated or moody
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Frequent thoughts of suicide or death
Symptoms of SAD can cause changes in your daily life. However, you do not have to experience all the symptoms included to be diagnosed with this depressive disorder.
Winter Depression or Winter-Pattern SAD
If you are experiencing mood changes or loss of interest in daily life during the months of winter, then you may be experiencing winter-pattern SAD. This type of depressive disorder comes with its own set of symptoms.
Symptoms of winter-pattern SAD Include:
- Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Weight gain from craving carbohydrates
- Hibernation (social withdrawal)
Coping during the winter months can be difficult if you have nowhere to turn. Talking to your doctor is the first step in gaining a treatment plan. There are several forms of treatment for winter depression. This includes light therapy, going to CBT therapy, or participating in another treatment program offered by Alter Wellness Care.
Light Therapy for Winter Depression
Light therapy for SAD that happens during the winter months means exposing yourself to artificial light. The concept of this therapy includes exposure to bright artificial light for 20 to 60 minutes each morning. This replaces the light you wouldn’t otherwise get because the sun rises later in the morning.
This therapy is effective for those experiencing winter-pattern SAD. It can also be one among a few different treatments you have as part of your treatment plan.
Like winter-pattern SAD, you can also experience SAD in the summer. There are different symptoms for this specific form of SAD. Symptoms can include:
- Weight loss
- Changes in appetite
- Violent outbursts
- Agitation and restlessness
Like winter depression, when you experience this in the summer, you can seek treatment which ranges from psychotherapy to medication, to outdoor therapy, and CBT.
Fortunately, both summer-pattern and winter-pattern SAD are treatable. Talking to your doctor before its onset may help you gain a treatment plan that can prepare you for the effects of this mental health disorder.
CBT for Seasonal Affective Disorder
CBT is safe and effective for treating SAD. CBT helps you identify beliefs and thoughts that are no longer serving your greater good. The aim is to challenge this faulty thinking and help you cope with and healthily manage your mental health disorder.
Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder
Treating SAD is not always easy. However, you are not alone in this fight, and there are licensed medical professionals that can help guide you through the months of winter and or summer. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t wait to talk to your doctor, as the condition can worsen.
If left untreated, SAD could last longer than the months that affect you the most. Treatment is available, and having a plan to cope with depressive symptoms will help you live a happier life during those pesky winter or summer months!
If you are experiencing the effects of the winter or summer months without joy, it may be time to seek a professional for help. Alter Wellness Care is here to provide you with the best outpatient treatment programs. We encourage you to learn more about our CBT program and talk to a mental health professional who can help guide you to a treatment plan that works for you. Alter Wellness Care is dedicated to treating various mental health disorders, including seasonal affective disorder. Our mission is to help those experiencing mental health conditions live happier and healthier lives. We would love to help you. Give our office a call at (866) 311-3510, and we will be there for you!