Sometimes, seasonal changes impact our mental health. As summer turns to fall and eventually to winter, you may feel sad, depressed, unmotivated, and gloomy. These feelings can come unexpectedly and drastically impact how you get through your day. Occasionally feeling sad is normal, but when it becomes a normal occurrence during the winter months, there’s a good chance you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Every year, approximately 5% of the U.S. population experiences this condition. Learn more about this disorder, how to treat it, and when to seek treatment.
Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder
Mental health issues are common and affect people of all ages, health statuses, and genders. SAD is a condition that falls into the category of mental illnesses, and it affects people differently, but some of the common symptoms include:
- Depressive episodes
- Sleeping too much
- Loss of interest
- Physical aches and pains
You might experience any combination of these symptoms or other symptoms, too. Many people call SAD the “winter blues” because it affects people in the winter more than any other time.
SAD symptoms tend to start in the fall. However, some people can experience them at other times of the year. Experts are still working on the causes of SAD, but several prominent theories exist.
Serotonin is a chemical the brain produces, primarily controlling our moods.
During the winter, your serotonin levels tend to decrease. When you experience this decrease, it leads to the symptoms of SAD.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The winter also causes people to stay indoors more often. Your body naturally receives Vitamin D when you’re outside in the sunlight. Vitamin D helps your brain produce serotonin. As a result, the decreased Vitamin D levels lead to a lower serotonin level.
Changes in Melatonin
SAD may also occur when your melatonin levels change. Melatonin levels may increase in the winter. When this happens, it causes fatigue, which might also result in SAD symptoms.
Like other mental conditions, diagnosing SAD is somewhat challenging. You need a professional who understands mental illnesses. Visiting your primary physician is a wise move. Your doctor can run blood tests to see if they are normal. Your doctor can also find some health issues with similar symptoms as SAD through a blood test. Thyroid problems are an example of an issue with similar effects. If your thyroid isn’t functioning as it should, you might feel the symptoms described above.
After other health issues have been ruled out, discussing your concerns with a doctor or mental health expert may be helpful. Explain how you feel and when the feelings started. Provide as much information as possible to help the medical professional make a diagnosis.
Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD treatment comes in many forms. Everyone is unique, so some people thrive with one form of treatment while others may need multiple. Some of the most common forms of SAD treatment include:
Light therapy is the common name for phototherapy, and it involves using a specific type of light designed to treat SAD. This light mimics the light from the sun. Your physician might suggest sitting near this light for several hours a day. The purpose is to get the vitamins from the light you would typically get from the sun.
Light therapy works well for some people. It especially works for those who only experience winter SAD symptoms. You can experience the same result by going outside on a sunny day. Natural sunlight is the best remedy for getting the vitamins the sun offers.
Psychotherapy is counseling that involves talk therapy. During a psychotherapy session, you visit a therapist to discuss your feelings. Talk therapy is beneficial for many mental health conditions. For example, this option is helpful for people struggling with anxiety.
Many people find healing by talking freely about their feelings. Talking provides a release and causes feelings of relief. If you have severe SAD symptoms, you might benefit by enrolling in an in-patient mental health program.
Doctors and mental health providers may also suggest medications for SAD. The most common option is antidepressants, which target the brain’s chemicals. The medication aims to increase serotonin production, which is essential for feeling happy and content. Your doctor might suggest taking a Vitamin D supplement if your level is low.
When to Seek Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD affects many people, but some people ignore the signs. People often think the feelings will pass, but you don’t have to struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Talk to a healthcare professional about your feelings. You can also call us at Comprehensive Wellness Centers. A healthcare professional can help you decide when to seek help. They can also explain what to expect during treatment. When you seek help, you’ll find relief faster and live a more fulfilling and engaging life.
Find Out How We Can Help
Seasonal Affective Disorder can significantly affect your life, mood, and relationships. Ignoring this condition will not make it go away, but help is available. Comprehensive Wellness Centers can help. We specialize in treating mental health disorders and addiction. Our team of professionals offers an individualized approach that enables you to get back on track. Reach out to learn more about our programs and services and how they can help you!