Many of us believe that the holiday season is the happiest time of the year. But these bright and merry festivities fall in the coldest and darkest season- winter. Winter brings snow and ice. For those of us with children, this weather can be fun and exciting. But, with the snow and ice comes hazardous road conditions and glib skies.
The lack of sunlight and driving anxiety associated with these conditions can cause the happiest person to feel down in the dumps. But sometimes, this sadness is more than the winter blues. Seasonal depression is a form of depression that occurs during a certain time of the year. The most common time of the year is winter.
Winter and Depression
Winter and depression go hand in hand for some people. Because SAD is seasonal and only affects the individual during a specific time of the year, it is often not taken seriously. Most individuals suffering from seasonal depression never seek treatment, but the awful fact remains. Seasonal depression is a serious form of depression and the symptoms are felt just as deeply as they would for an individual struggling with chronic depression.
Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, should be taken seriously. If symptoms appear, inform your primary care doctor immediately. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to ease or alleviate the symptoms of SAD. If you are struggling with depression or experiencing thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately.
Experiencing a tinge of sadness due to the arrival of winter is completely normal. Gone are the days of summer fun, having been replaced with grey skies and chilly nights. The shift in temperature is enough to disappoint, but the shortening of the day is often the major culprit for the winter blues you may be experiencing.
- Feelings of disappointment
- Slight feelings of sadness
- Feelings of loneliness
The winter blues are caused by the change in the weather and the shortening of days. The lack of sunlight can cause feelings of sadness, loneliness, or disappointment. But, these feelings are fleeting and mild compared to the symptoms of SAD.
The winter blues can be treated with dietary changes that increase the amount of vitamins C and D in your diet. They can also be treated with a day spent with family and friends. If the feelings become prolonged or severe, consult your primary care doctor or mental health professional. They will be able to assist you in determining whether you have a small case of the winter blues or a more severe form of depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that strikes at a certain time of the year. An individual suffering from chronic depression may also struggle with seasonal affective disorder. This disorder is a more severe form of the winter blues. Those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, experience depressive symptoms during that time each year.
- Withdrawal from people and activities once enjoyed
- Increase/ Decrease in appetite, sleep, or weight
- Feelings of anxiousness, irritability, sadness, or dread
Scientists have not yet found the cause of seasonal affective disorder. The cause may be low levels of serotonin, a change in our circadian rhythm, or vitamin deficits. At this time, we do not know for sure what causes SAD.
SAD is treated with light therapy, psychotherapy, vitamin D, and antidepressant medicine. Finding a great therapist is key to managing all forms of mental illness, even the seasonal forms.
The Role of Other Disorders
As with all mental disorders, the existence of another disorder in you or a relative increases your risk. Four other mental disorders seem to relate to SAD. Let’s take a look at how the following three disorders interact and affect SAD.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder and pretty much any other form of depression increases an individual’s risk of struggling with SAD. The existence of one form of depression increases the risk of developing symptoms for another. The symptoms of major depressive disorder and SAD are very similar too.
Another depressive disorder that shares similar symptoms with SAD is bipolar disorder. This is especially true of Bipolar II Disorder. The depressive episodes are similar in length and severity to the depression associated with SAD.
Individuals with eating disorders often suffer from SAD. This is likely because individuals with eating disorders typically lack the vitamins necessary in their daily diets. This lack of vitamins, especially Vitamin D and C seems to contribute to SAD.
Recognizing SAD in Children
Adults are not the only ones who suffer from SAD, children often struggle with seasonal depression as well. They may find themselves playing outside less and becoming distanced from friends at school. Whether from winter break or snow days, children become attached to their peers. Learn how to recognize mental health issues in children and reach out to a child psychologist if you find any worrisome signs or symptoms.
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