01 Jan Turning Over a New Leaf: Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder
With the transition from summer to fall, we anticipate the dropping temperatures and begin to prepare for colder nights and shorter days. As the green leaves fade and turn to pigments of yellow, orange, and red—we think about all the changes the new season brings. For some, the colder weather can bring on feelings of dread and a drastic shift in mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a form of depression which occurs most often in fall or winter may be triggered because of chemical changes in the brain related to a lack of sunlight.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The signs and symptoms that occur during depressive episodes in people with seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of major depressive disorder, including a loss of interest or enjoyment in activities, a decrease in energy, a depressed mood, and low self-esteem.”
How to Determine if You Have SAD
Contrary to its name, SAD is more than just a temporary feeling of sadness that occurs due to difficult life events. Everyone experiences sadness with the ups and downs of life. What makes SAD different from general sadness is that it is persistent and long-lasting. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can last for weeks or months at a time. Here are some signs to look for to determine if what you are experiencing maybe Seasonal Affective Disorder:
- Feeling hopeless, guilty or worthless
- Feeling lethargic
- Feeling sad or down nearly every day
- Trouble concentrating
- Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irritability and anxiety
- Withdrawing socially
What You Can Do if You are Experiencing Symptoms of SAD
If you are struggling with feelings of depression, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional. A diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be made through a mental health exam by a psychiatrist or therapist. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, they can begin to help alleviate SAD symptoms through cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy to help clients overcome distorted thoughts. Symptoms of SAD can improve through exposure to sunlight which can be increased with exercise outdoors and spending time in nature, light therapy and antidepressant medication.
“Seeking out mental health care preemptively or when “everything is fine” is often stigmatized. However, just as you attend your annual physicals, coming in for a tune-up for your mental health can identify and alleviate symptoms of SAD before they set in as well as boost your overall mental health. Treating your mind with the same kindness that you treat your body can have lasting positive effects on overall life outcomes. Mental health care is for everyone!” shared CHRIS 180 Operations Manager and Therapist Mikayla Ruggieri, LMSW
CHRIS Counseling Centers provides therapy, support groups and mental health programs for those in need of mental health support. Visit CHRIS180.org for mental health resources and to be connected with a mental health professional.
Briyanna Ferguson is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at CHRIS 180. She can be reached at marketing@CHRIS180.org