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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Living in New Milford you have likely experienced or heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter blues. It typically comes on at the same time every year. When the days get shorter in the fall and winter you may begin to experience a lack of motivation and feelings of despair. Below are some of the characteristic signs you are someone experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SYMPTOMS OF SAD

People who suffer from SAD typically experience mild to moderate symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms can become severe. The characteristics and symptoms of SAD are:
  • Having trouble sleeping or oversleeping
  • having low energy
  • weight gain
  • Feeling depressed most of the day almost daily
  • decreased sexual interest
  • lack of motivation
  • school or work problems
  • suicidal thoughts
  • lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • social avoidance and withdrawal
The symptoms are similar to those of low-grade depression. Keep track of when you usually become depressed each year. See if there is a pattern you can prepare for when the fall/winter months come to alleviate your symptoms.

REVERSE SAD

A seasonal mood disorder doesn’t only occur in the winter months. In about 6% of SAD cases, feelings of depression and sadness occur in the summer months instead of the winter months. When it occurs in the summer months it is known as Reverse SAD. It may be in response to humidity and high heat. The depression tends to look a bit different in reverse SAD. Symptoms include:
  • insomnia
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • agitation
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
Making arrangements to visit cooler climates during the summer is one way to combat summer SAD. Staying in the air conditioning may not be enough.

TREATMENT FOR SAD

A more popular treatment for winter SAD is light therapy during the darkest months of the year. If your symptoms are mild to moderate and don’t interfere with your daily functioning, light therapy could be a good option. Treatment can be as simple as turning on more lamps in your house and taking trips more often to warmer and sunnier climates. If this isn’t practical, try taking winter walks in the sun, this can do a lot to boost your mood giving your body exposure to vitamin D with the sun and boosting your natural body chemistry with exercise. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, it is a good idea to check in with a professional therapist or your primary care physician. During therapy, we could look at anything else going on, and discuss many different coping techniques and tools that will help treat the depression you are experiencing. You may need to consult a medical professional to determine if there are pharmacological interventions that can help. Your doctor can also suggest a therapeutic dose of vitamin D to help decrease symptoms of SAD.