Seasonal Affective Disorder: How To Spot The Signs & Symptoms Of SAD

 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression associated with the different seasons of the year. SAD symptoms commonly occur at the end of fall and continue throughout winter; often you feel lack of energy and have a negative mood.  Take the necessary steps to prevent this. 

 

Symptoms of SAD

For the majority of people, the symptoms of SAD usually appear around fall time when it starts to get darker and colder, and progressively become worse over time. However, in some cases people might experience symptoms of SAD during spring and summer. 

 

  • Feelings of sadness and depression most of the day and almost every day
  • Lost of interest in activities that were enjoyable during other seasons of the year 
  • Decreased levels of energy throughout the day 
  • Sleeping issues (Oversleeping or lack of sleep)
  • Changes in appetite and weight  
  • Challenging to concentrate
  • Experience agitation or anxiety
  • Experience feelings of worthlessness and guilt 
  • In severe cases: have thoughts of suicide or death  

 


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What causes SAD? 

Although there is not a single cause of SAD, there are different factors that may impact your mental health. 

 

  • Reduced Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a brain chemical/neurotransmitter that plays an important part in regulating your mood. Lack of sunshine during fall and wintertime can decrease the serotonin levels in your brain which can result to negative mood and SAD. 

 

  • Circadian rhythm and melatonin levels

The decreased levels of sunlight in late fall and winter can result to SAD.  Your brain relies on light from the sunshine during the day to regulate your circadian rhythm. When it is dark outside, your brain releases a chemical called melatonin that helps you to fall asleep. Therefore, changes in your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels can lead to depressed mood and issues with your sleep.

 

  • Deficiency in Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is associated with serotonin levels and dopamine (a good feeling chemical in your brain). It is common that many people will experience vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight during late fall and winter. With decreased sunlight the levels of serotonin and dopamine will reduce in your brain pushing you to feel depressed.  

 

Diagnosis 

It is important to acknowledge some important points: 

  • Same season 

For the depression to be truly seasonal, you must experience depression during the same season at least for two years in a row. 

 

  • Diminish with new season 

The symptoms of SAD must disappear when a new season starts.

 

  • Depression caused by psychological or environmental stressors 

It is crucial to not confuse SAD with depression that is caused by psychological or environmental stressors ,such as workload at school or work, or living alone at certain times of the year. 

 

Treatment

Our multidisciplinary team at EmotionMatters is here to help you. We offer specialised psychotherapy, and in particular cognitive behavioural therapy which can be useful to help you to identify and manage your feelings.