In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — for many people SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. Most people with SAD, experience symptoms related to depression in the fall and continue into the winter months, leading to feelings of irritability, depressed mood, low energy, hypersensitivity, etc.
Symptoms related to SAD in the fall and winter months (often called winter depression) include:
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Unusual fatigue
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Low energy or chronic exhaustion
- Changes in weight, specifically weight gain
Symptoms related to SAD in spring and summer months (often called summer depression) include:
- Depression or low mood
- Changes in sleeping pattern, usually insomnia (most attributed to increase in daylight hours and or sunlight)
- Changes in appetite (usually a decrease leading to weight loss)
- Agitation or anxiety
Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (during light therapy or phototherapy you are exposed to bright light that is supposed to mimic natural outdoor light causing a change in the brain chemicals linked to mood), medications (usually an antidepressant medication to combat depressive symptoms or low mood) or psychotherapy (talk therapy is used to help those struggling with SAD process their feelings, identify negative thoughts and emotions, and learn techniques to manage their symptoms) or even a combination of all three.
It may come as little surprise to some that a lot of people struggle with depression in the winter months. Depression in the fall and winter months can be attributed to the decrease in sunlight. For some people a decrease in sunlight has shown that people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light. In higher latitudes, winter days are shorter, so you get less exposure to sunlight. Replace lost sunlight with bright artificial light, and your mood improves. But it’s actually far more complex, it’s not only a matter of getting light, but also getting it at the right time.
Tips for treating SAD include changing up on your routine by incorporating more exercise or exercising regularly. Try to get out more and spend time with friends and family. Do things that will allow you to relieve stress and improve your overall mood. Try not to stay indoors, rather taking short walks in the sunlight can help improve your mood and increase your energy.