It can seem like a dark joke that seasonal depression is known by an acronym that shows how patients feel when they have it. Jokes aside, however, seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a mental health condition that affects hundreds of people across the country.
Those with seasonal affective disorder can experience the same issues that patients with depression and other mental health mood disorders experience. People with SAD generally feel the worst of the symptoms as the world heads into winter.
Summer is generally when symptoms are mostly mild, though some people experience the opposite as well. The National Institute of Mental Health classifies seasonal affective disorder as a type of major depression or major depressive disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health further says that the type of depression that occurs during summer can have unique symptoms, though it is still unclear what causes the seasonal type of depression. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, here are some things you can do to help manage your symptoms.
One of the few things that people with SAD can count on is that they will experience the full force of seasonal affective disorder as the temperatures drop when we move towards fall and winter. Because nobody is focused on the climate as we live our lives through spring and summer, it can be easy for winter depression to sneak upon us.
Instead, you can use a reliable weather forecasting platform like Tomorrow to ensure that the winter blues don’t suddenly hit you.
You can check the weather trends for your area weekly to figure out if the weather brings out any of your SAD symptoms. People with SAD can also set alerts and reminders on their phones to do this, as this could help you chalk out a game plan for your seasonal pattern of depression.
Get enough light
The winter blues are called that because winter marks a seasonal decrease in the amount of sunlight we get. The American Psychiatric Association suggests a link between exposure to sunlight and people experiencing increases in the intensity of symptoms of SAD. This is why patients who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder are often recommended for light therapy.
Light therapy is where patients are exposed to a bright light that mimics the spectrum found in sunlight. There are lamps you can buy for home use. You can also ask your health care provider about them. The bright light mimics the sun and helps elevate your mood when the winter blues take over. Light therapy has been used quite effectively to treat people with SAD.
People with SAD face the same difficulties that patients with major depressive disorder face. They have difficulty getting out of bed, they feel lethargic, and there may be an increased tendency to sleep. Exercising is n easy alternative to popping pills if you want to combat the depressive feelings as well as get some adrenaline and serotonin flowing in your body.
When we say exercise, we mean any form of physical activity that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Many people with SAD are advised to take short walks in bright lights or outdoors during the daytime. One of the symptoms of SAD is a loss of interest in having a social life, so you could use this as a way to go out and interact with people as well.
There seems to be a taboo surrounding therapy that makes people avoid it till the very end. If you aren’t in therapy yet, we highly recommend visiting a good therapist who also practices talk therapy. Talk therapy can help you in a wide-ranging variety of ways and can help you manage your symptoms as well. Therapy isn’t only about antidepressant medications; there is a lot of psychological unpacking that greatly benefits patients.
Talk therapy can also reveal surprising aspects of your seasonal affective disorder. Though SAD is more common during the wintertime, you might find that your therapist recognizes some symptoms cropping up in early summer as well. Summer SAD can present radically different from winter SAD, so it would be difficult for you to recognize it as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In conclusion, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a crippling condition to those who have it. However, you should remember that you are stronger than a mood disorder, and you are stronger than even major depressive disorder. While the journey may be difficult, we hope you will be able to take small steps to manage your winter depression or summer depression and resist it from affecting your day-to-day life to a very large extent.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.