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  • Writer's pictureSavanna Martin

What You Need To Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal affective disorder is defined as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. For most people, the pictures and symptoms appear in the fall and winter, while for some, the pictures and symptoms may appear in the spring rainy season.

Symptoms may include fatigue even with prolonged sleep, weight gain due to overeating, cravings for certain foods for comfort, difficulty thinking or making decisions, sadness or depression with thoughts of death or suicide, and loss of women interest. Otherwise, SAD, known as seasonal depression, can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, stressing every aspect of your life, from relationships and social life to work, school, and self-esteem.

For example, if your depression starts in the early fall and subsides naturally in the spring for two consecutive years, you may be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. If you feel depressed, tired, and irritable at the same time every year, and these feelings are seasonal, SAD may be a likely explanation. If the fatigue and depressed mood caused by the changing seasons are starting to affect your daily activities, it's probably more serious.

Although SAD affects people differently, symptoms most often start in October or November and end in March or April. Symptoms of SAD are consistent with those of major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar disorder and vary seasonally. While the symptoms of SAD depression and bipolar disorder may be similar, there are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to treatment.

Bipolar II disorder can also be seasonal, with severe depressive episodes in autumn and winter and manic episodes in spring and summer. The changing seasons can cause mood swings in some people with bipolar disorder. There are some studies showing that photoperiod is the strongest and most reliable environmental trigger for when symptoms begin in a given year, as well as the strongest predictor of how depressed a person with seasonal affective disorder feels on a given day during the winter months. Those studying the much smaller seasonal flows are concerned that impairments and problems for mental health in general will increase with climate change.

Depending on the severity of your seasonal depression, your personal doctor may recommend the following combinations to help you feel better sooner. If you have been diagnosed with seasonal depression or SAD, your personal doctor can recommend/prescribe a treatment plan. These prescription/treatment recommendations will vary based on the type, severity of seasonal depression and other medical considerations that your personal physician determines when developing a treatment plan for you. No matter which treatment plan you choose, it's important to combine it with a self-help approach to help manage depressive symptoms and even help prevent seasonal depression from recurring in the next year.

The right therapist can help you suppress negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that make your illness worse, and help you learn to manage symptoms and manage stress in healthy ways. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very helpful for people with seasonal depression.

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