Seasonal affective disorder: What you need to know

Katie Noble, contributor

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly known as seasonal depression, is exactly what it sounds like. It is depression that is triggered by changes in the seasons. Before even knowing that I had major depression, I knew that I dreaded winter time because of how sad and tired I got.

Seeing as winter is just ending, and knowing that sometimes symptoms of illnesses such as SAD can go unnoticed, I thought this would be the optimal time to give some facts about SAD. If you notice SAD symptoms in yourself or someone you know, that person should be sure to talk to a psychiatrist about treatment.Fact 1: Between 60 percent and 90 percent of those affected by SAD are women.

  • Fact 2: SAD in the winter has been found to be linked to lack of daylight rather than cold temperatures. Melatonin in the body increases when it is darker, which can lead to higher rates of depression.
  • Fact 3: The two main causes of SAD are stress and biological predisposition. This means that if someone in your family has been diagnosed with SAD in the past, your chances of getting it will likely increase.
  • Fact 4: Staying on top of things can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. When work or school get crazy, take the time to get things done far in advance to relieve stress later on.
  • Fact 5: Exercise also helps reduce the symptoms of SAD. Working out in the morning is said to be better. This is because exercise releases endorphins which “cheer up” your brain, so exercising early will fill you with endorphins throughout the day.
  • Fact 6: Seeing a therapist to talk about your situation can help tremendously. It is easy to feel alone when suffering with SAD, but a therapist can guide you in the right direction.
  • Fact 7: Utilizing light therapy in the winter months has been proven to help symptoms. This increases your exposure to light in the darker months, mimicking the longer daylight of summer.
  • Fact 8: If you gain weight in the winter because of SAD, you are not alone. Lack of light in the winter leads to lower levels of serotonin. Lack of serotonin leads people to crave sugary foods.
  • Fact 9: A second type of seasonal affective disorder known as summer depression can occur in individuals who live in warmer climates. Their depression is related to heat and humidity rather than light.
  • Fact 10: If a loved one suffers from SAD, you can help them. Encourage them to stick to their treatment plan. Get them out of the house and give them some company. Most importantly, remind them that you are there for them and support them

I have struggled with SAD for years. Once I started speaking out about my situation, I realized that many people are affected by this illness, and I am excited to be able to reach out to more people and help in any way that I can. Summer is coming, people. For those of us struggling with SAD in the winter months, the end is near. If you are someone who struggles with SAD in the summer, remember that you are not alone.

This article first appeared in the Friday, April 13, Edition of The Echo.