Depression comes in many forms and affects each person suffering differently. For that reason, diagnosing and treating depression can be difficult. One of the most commonly overlooked forms of depression is a seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. As the name suggests, SAD is a type of depression that occurs around certain seasons. Many SAD sufferers notice their symptoms in the fall, getting worse as winter takes over.

What is SAD?

Other than just a type of depression, what exactly is SAD? There isn’t a medical explanation to answer that question entirely, but we do know that SAD is caused by a decrease in serotonin levels in the brain. The change of seasons comes with a time change which leads to shorter daylight times. It’s assumed that this time change can be credited mainly to the serotonin drop in SAD sufferers. SAD is just as dangerous as other forms of depression, but it often gets overlooked as the wintertime blues. While a few mood changes with the seasons is to be expected, if you notice consistent symptoms of SAD that interfere with your day to day life, it’s time to seek professional help.

Knowing the Symptoms

The symptoms of SAD are very common to those associated with other forms of depression, but there are a few unique symptoms that are only seen in SAD sufferers. Signs to look out for include:
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Loss of interest in activities
• Relationship problems
• Heavy limbs
• Oversleeping
• Sudden changes to appetite, often causing rapid weight gain
• Changes to sleep
• Difficulty concentrating

Reaching Out for Help

If you believe you may be suffering from SAD, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The sooner you discuss your symptoms and concerns with a professional the sooner you can begin a treatment plan and get back to your usual self again! Your physician may recommend medications to level out the serotonin levels in the brain. If you’d like to try more natural solutions before turning to medicine, consider looking into light therapy. This therapy uses strong light exposure to treat SAD sufferers during the winter months. Psychotherapy is another excellent option that can be used alone or combined with either of the other treatments mentioned. Psychotherapy involves talking with a licensed therapist to determine where your negative thoughts begin and finding healthy ways to overcome them.
Suffering from SAD can feel hopeless, but there are plenty of treatment options available!