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Has winter weather got you down? While you may have a case of the winter blues, it could be the more serious seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that affects an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. population. Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, can be terribly debilitating. It saps sufferers’ energy, concentration, and desire to socialize, and can last for months. Symptoms tend to be more pronounced during severe winters.
To get relief, it’s important for those affected to understand seasonal affective disorder symptoms, causes and treatment. This article helps answer the following five questions:
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of SAD are similar to other forms of depression, but build up over months and recur annually. While seasonal affective disorder in winter is most common, some people experience it each summer. Typically symptoms become more severe as the season progresses.
According to National Institute of Health, SAD symptoms include:
For a seasonal affective disorder diagnosis, a person must meet the criteria for major depression that coincides with the winter season (or summer) for at least two years, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes
The exact cause or causes of SAD is not known, but researchers believe it is linked to melatonin and serotonin, two chemicals in the brain that regulate sleep, mood and energy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Too much melatonin and too little serotonin can set the stage for SAD.
The pineal gland in the brain produces melatonin to induce sleep. During the winter, when nights are longer, more melatonin is produced. That abundance is believed to negatively affect some people during the day. Serotonin levels go up with exposure to sunlight, so when days are shorter in winter, less serotonin is produced. Lower levels of serotonin are linked to depression.
Less sunlight in fall and winter may also disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Seasonal affective disorder risk factors:
Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments
Light therapy, psychotherapy, and medications — often in combination — are effective seasonal affective disorder remedies.
Living a healthy lifestyle can also help control symptoms of SAD. Here are 10 essential self-care tips:
Cold, nasty weather can affect anyone’s mood, not just people coping with seasonal affective disorder symptoms. An estimated 14 percent of U.S. residents grapple with a condition milder than SAD, known as the winter blues, according to Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, who first described the disorder in 1984.
If winter is getting you down, check out these five ways you can boost your mood: https://newbridge.org/education/5-ways-to-boost-your-mood-this-winter/. And if you feel you need professional help, contact NewBridge Services at 973-316-9333 or visit newbridge.org.