Coping With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Updated: Jun 9
The seasons can affect anyone’s mood. Some people may feel their happiest in the summertime as they savor the long, warm days while others may thrive in the cold, winter months as they relish in the holiday season and enjoy the plush winter snows. Has a season ever left you feeling depressed and unmotivated to live your life, though? Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that affects a person around the same time every year, whether that be in the fall, winter, spring, or summer. As the new season rolls around, they may begin to feel like themselves again until the next year. Fortunately, those with seasonal affective disorder do not have to just suffer through the season. There is coping mechanisms and help out there to get you through those seasons of depression.
What is a Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression in which one experiences a pattern of dealing with symptoms of depression during a certain season, feeling like themselves as that season comes to an end, then dealing with the depression all over again when the season swings back around the next year. While we all may experience certain mood highs and lows throughout the seasons, those who are suffering with seasonal depression find that these moods they experience at certain times of the year begin having a negative impact on their quality of life. If you have noticed that your seasonal mood changes are beginning to impact your relationships, happiness, motivation, or overall quality of life; you may be experiencing seasonal depression. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can help you find a diagnosis, understand why you are feeling this way, and discover which form of treatment could be right for you.
Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Although seasonal affective disorder may not occur year-round, it can truly take a toll on your quality of life. The signs and symptoms of SAD can be very similar to that of a major depressive episode and will occur around the same time every year. The signs and symptoms of SAD include:
A Lack of Interest or Motivation for Living Life
When someone is suffering from SAD, they may find that, during their depressive season, they have no interest in participating in the activities that used to bring them joy. They may pull away from friends and family who they love, stop doing the hobbies that would spark joy, and just lose all motivation to do much of anything. During their depressive season, those suffering from SAD may experience troubles within their relationships, at work, or at school.
Eating Habit Changes
Those who are experiencing their depressive season may begin to find themselves over or under-eating due to their feelings of depression. This can lead to health issues that may worsen the symptoms being experienced by the sufferer.
Struggles with Sleep
Those who are experiencing the symptoms of SAD may find that they either struggle to fall asleep, feeling restless all through the night or that they struggle to get out of bed, constantly feeling sluggish and exhausted. Regardless of one’s sleep patterns, feelings of sluggishness and lethargy are common signs and symptoms when experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
Those who are experiencing symptoms of SAD may find that they are confused, unable to concentrate, and feel as though their mind is cloudy and unclear. Unclear thoughts and feelings of fogginess in your mind may be due to the seasonal depression, as well as physical health issues that can occur due to the SAD.
Changes in Mood
When one is experiencing the symptoms of SAD, they will show changes in their mood. They may feel hopeless, worthless, irritable, guilty, and general sadness. These feelings can bring some very disheartening thoughts to one’s head which can, in severe cases, lead to thoughts of suicide or death.
NOTE: If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or death, contact your health provider or a suicide prevention hotline right away. The national suicide prevention hotline number is 800-273-8255. If you or somebody you know are in immediate danger of suicide, call 911 immediately.
Seasonal affective disorder can begin to negatively impact your relationships, career, and overall quality of life. Thankfully, you do not have to suffer in silence. There are a few different treatments that have been found to be quite effective in treating SAD including light therapy, talk therapy, and antidepressants. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can be essential to diagnosing, understanding, and finding the best treatment to get you feeling like yourself again as soon as possible.
The most common form of SAD is winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder. Often, this form of SAD can occur due to the lack of sunlight hours in the wintertime. Light therapy uses a light box in order to create artificial sunlight that acts as a replacement for the sun one may be missing during the fall and winter seasons. This form of therapy works by having the client sit in front of the lightbox for about fifteen minutes once a day or more, depending on the needs of the client.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy is a type of therapy that encourages the client to talk through the issues they are experiencing from their symptoms to their thoughts behind them. This form of therapy allows the client and their therapist to navigate their way through the thought processes and reasons behind the client’s SAD symptoms.
Antidepressants are medications that can be used to allow imbalances within the brain that could be causing the symptoms of SAD to heal. They are often used alongside another form of therapy.
Helping Yourself Heal from Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is a tough disorder to experience. The symptoms you are experiencing may make it hard to find the motivation to help yourself in any way, but developing certain healthy habits may help get you on track to feeling better. Along with the tr
eatment your mental health professional recommends, a few self-care method to help you feel better include:
Soaking up as much sunlight as you can throughout your days may help improve your mood. On foggy winter days, sunlight can be hard to come by. So, open your windows, take a walk, or take a moment to sit outside, if possible. Sunlight has been shown to boost vitamin D production, endorphins serotonin, and melatonin; all of which are important for improving one’s mood.
Exercise and Eat Nutritious Foods
You may be surprised to learn just how connected your physical health and mental health truly are. When your physical health is suffering, your mental health will begin to suffer and vice versa. When you are feeling depressed, it can be hard to be motivated to take care of your health, but small steps like sneaking in a quick workout and adding nutritional foods like fruits and vegetables into your diet can get you feeling better.
Learn How to Cope with Stress
We all experience stress. Too much stress can increase or trigger your feelings of depression. Finding healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress can help you with managing your symptoms of SAD. Some healthy coping mechanisms for stress include meditation, having a trusted person to vent to, yoga, and taking up a hobby you enjoy. Avoid taking on too many tasks to do everyday and avoid relation
ships that tend to stress you out.
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that occurs every year around the same time. It can affect your mood, eating habits, sleeping habits, relationships, and overall quality of life. If you believe that you are suffering from SAD, know that you do not have to suffer alone. Reaching out to a mental health professional can help you develop a diagnosis, find out why you are feeling this way, and designate the right treatment to get you feeling better. Contact us today for a consultation or to begin your treatment.
Mead, M. N. (2008, April). Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environmental health perspectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/.