For some, the winter is hardly “the most wonderful period of the year.”
Seasonal affective disorder is a condition that affects virtually 10 million American adults and can make a few months out of the year feel downright unbearable. It’s common to feel bouts of the winter blues, but those with seasonal depression may experience symptoms and low moods that sometimes make everyday tasks feel impossible.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about seasonal affective disorder, its treatment options and how it affects people’s daily lives.
In most cases, SAD is just a seasonal component of clinical depression or bipolar disorder, according to Michelle Riba, a prof of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center.
“For people who ensure a regular pattern every year of get sad, anxious or a cycling of moods, the first thing they need to do is to see someone to get an overall diagnosis, ” she told. “They need to treat the underlying depression.”
2. It’s not a punchline .
It can be easy to blame a bad mood on the earlier dark skies, but people should think twice before saying they “must have SAD.” The condition is scarcely something to be flippant about, Riba said.
“It’s not something to chuckle about or gag about, ” Riba told. “It’s a significant health problem.” Here’s a list of other mental illness terms that shouldn’t be used nonchalantly.
3. There are multiple ways to treat SAD …
For a long time, many considered light therapy one of the gold standards of SAD treatment. The technique helps sufferers by exposing them to artificial light similar to sunlight. Experts theorize this technique helps correct the body’s inner circadian rhythm and makes feel-good hormones that people get from the sunlight during other periods of the year.
However, light therapy isn’t the only road. Since the key is treating the underlying depression, that could include techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, drug or both. Recently a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that talk therapy may even be more effective than light therapywhen it comes to treating SAD. But keep in mind that the best method varies from person to person, Riba says. Any active treatment is better than nothing.
4. … But it may take some time .
Riba says that most physicians don’t determine if a person has SAD until they’ve experienced at the least two episodes( essentially seasons) of the ailment. In other words, it may take a little while to make sure it’s the right diagnosis. Physicians want to make sure that they’re treating every aspect of a mental health ailment properly.
5. It’s debilitating .
Symptoms of SAD include sadness, fatigue and a loss of motivation. Any depressive disorder can also be physically exhausting. People with depression often experience headaches and changes in appetite in addition to their emotional symptoms.
6. SAD doesn’t always occur in the winter .
It’s rare, but some people do experience the condition in the spring or summertime. These symptoms usually include increased feelings of agitation or anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic.
7. The condition is complex .
According to Riba, SAD can not only be a component of major depression, but also bipolar disorder or other mental health issues. A rare case of SAD also may have contributed to one woman’s obsessive compulsive ailment flareups during the winter months. Experts agree that there may be a tie between seasonal changes and exacerbation of maladies. Like all mental health conditions, the disorder is complicated and as such, deserves thoughtful and effective therapy from a physician.
8. It’s more prevalent in northern countries .
People who live in colder, cloudier climates may be more susceptible to the disorder. Northern states have higher rates of SAD than southern states, according to the University of California, Irvine.
9. SAD is more common in females .
Studies indicate women have higher rates of depression than humen, including SAD, the New York Times reported. However, that doesn’t mean men are immune. Depression doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or any biological factor.
10. It should be taken seriously .
Above all, mental health conditions like SAD are manageable, but only if people attempt the help they need.
“It’s important for people to recognize these signs within themselves and get assessed, ” Riba said. “This isn’t a trivial problem, it’s part of a major mood disorder that really needs to be addressed. But it is treatable.”
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