Dispelling Myths: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known as a recurring depression that comes around during certain times of the  year. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to symptoms reported in clinical depression like changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep, and fatigue. Seasonal affective disorder might be confusing to some,  in terms, of how it comes to by and how it is different from other forms of depression. Like other depressive disorders, SAD can greatly influence one’s ability to function in everyday life and harm their personal relationships. It is for these reasons that it is important for people to seek treatment when they feel like their symptoms have gotten out of hand.

Myth #1: Only women get Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Although, many sufferers of SAD are women, like most mental health disorders people of all backgrounds can get SAD. The true prevalence of SAD is still unknown, but women could be anywhere from 60-90% of those who suffer from SAD. However, these numbers could be a result of the stigma that still surrounds a diagnosis of depression and due to fewer men than women seeking out help for their mental health concerns.

Myth #2: Seasonal Affective Disorder only occurs during the winter or fall.
When we think of seasonal affective disorders, we often think that the depression only occurs every winter; however, it is possible for seasonal affective disorder to also develop during the summer, spring or fall. The symptoms seen in summer vs winter SAD also varies. In the winter an increase in appetite, weight gain, fatigue, increased need for sleep, and trouble concentrating. Meanwhile, in the summer symptoms are typically decreased appetite, weight loss, and trouble with sleep in general.

Myth #3: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues are the same.
Generally, in the winter, it is common for people to experience lapses of less energy and shifts in sleeping patterns due to the shorter days and temperature drops. However, SAD is different from the winter blues that most people experience, which can be cured remedied through increased physical activity and regular sleeping patterns. In order to be diagnosed with SAD, these symptoms also have to occur within two years in a row around the same time of year.

People with SAD might have to go through more extensive therapy and treatments in order to find the same benefits from the symptoms. Since it is typically very difficult to diagnose and can be confused with winter blues, many people believe that SAD does not actually exist and that people are experiencing a natural progression in the winter; however, many people do suffer from SAD across the year.

Unlike other disorders, there are many possible avenues of treatment for people suffering from SAD. Since many scientists suspect that SAD might be caused by a hormonal and chemical imbalance that is triggered by the seasons, light therapy, also known as phototherapy has been tested and found very useful. Many sufferers of SAD benefit from phototherapy; it has been clinically shown to boost an individual’s melatonin and serotonin levels, possibly resulting in the alleviation of symptoms. Medication with antidepressants is only recommended in extreme cases of SAD.

If you are struggling with your mental health, or you know someone who might be struggling, please feel free to contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections for help! Getting yourself help, whether it is through self-help or by reaching out to professionals is an important part of recognizing that you are struggling; it is also a good step forward in getting the help you need. You can visit Lifelineconnections.org or call 360.397.8246 for more information.

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