“It’s winter time once again and I just don’t feel the Holiday spirit.”
Cindy, 16 years old, always feels depressed during the winter season. She continues to report that she does not hate the particular time of the year, but just can’t get herself to enjoy and feel happy like everybody else. “The snow and seeing white all day is just so depressing”, she claims.
What is SAD?
Cindy is suffering from what psychologists term as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the term implies, this is a type of depression that only happens during a particular season or time of the year. In the case of Cindy, she is depressed all winter time and her feelings of hopelessness usually started late fall. Some call it winter blues or winter depression. Other people also present depressive behaviors during summer time. A unique characteristic of this mental condition is that the depressive episode is only experienced in a particular season and the person goes back to its normal mental health state throughout the rest of the year.
Who are at risk?
Remember this mnemonic: Young Fe who lives Far Away from Family is Depressed.
Translation: Younger adults and children are at a higher risk of SAD. Being female (Fe) and living far from the equator, a family history and current depression are all high risks to develop
What causes SAD?
Until now, there is no definitive cause for SAD. However, previous studies have demonstrated a correlation of factors to the development of SAD. These include decreasing levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body due to a reduction in sunlight during the winter season. Take note that these chemical play a major role in regulating one’s mood. Serotonin regulates mood while melatonin is responsible for regulating a good night’s sleep and one’s mood.
Signs and Symptoms
With the explanation on what causes SAD, the following signs and symptoms now appear on the person experiencing it:
- Lack of energy mostly everyday
- Losing interest in common activities previously been doing
- Food cravings
- Weight gain (due to increased food intake and decreased activity levels)
- Sleeping problems (excessive sleeping)
Can it be treated?
Recommended treatments for SAD will take a multifactorial approach, meaning, the doctor will engage you in a psychotherapy session and will be prescribing you some antidepressants. Light therapy or phototherapy is also being recommended as it mimics the sun to provide natural light thus helping in the release of brain chemicals to uplift one’s mood.
Whatever the doctor will recommend, make sure that you are following it and will take it seriously to correct your condition. Some people may seek advice online or thru chat rooms specific for this condition. Although chat rooms and internet resources are not all bad, always take precautions and seek the advice of your doctor before doing anything.