We all experience “seasons of life” when we’re doing well and life seems great. Other times we may be struggling and can’t seem to get back on our feet. For some people, this turn of phrase is placed in a more literal light, in the case of a mental health disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder often find that their symptoms of anxiety and depression come around the same time each year. Most people with the condition find that their symptoms start around the fall and extend through the winter into spring. Occasionally, some people who live with seasonal affective disorder experience their symptoms in the spring and summer months.
The Science Behind SAD
In a study published in 2015 by Depression Research and Treatment, psychologists found that the majority of SAD sufferers are women who live along latitudes far from the equator and who have a family history of mental illness. The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but studies have shown that all of these factors can cause a person to feel depressed and anxious during the fall and winter months.
Those who live in colder, darker climates often lack vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency contributes to the symptoms that are often associated with SAD. Exposure to sunlight stimulates our hypothalamus, the part of our brain that controls our circadian rhythm or internal sleep cycle. If we don’t get enough sunlight, our brains produce more melatonin (the sleep hormone) and less serotonin (one of the happiness hormones) and thus we may feel sad, sluggish, and tired as a result. This chemical imbalance also causes impaired cognitive function. You may find yourself feeling foggy and unable to perform tasks that you normally don’t struggle with during other parts of the year.
Coping With SAD: What Do The Experts Say?
Sometimes those who struggle with SAD don’t reach out for help or try to alleviate their symptoms for a variety of reasons. Some may not even consider the disorder as an issue because they only have symptoms for a part of the year and thus they may not even be aware of the problem. Others may feel pressure to keep up the appearance of a normal level of happiness around others during the fall and winter months because of the holiday season. However, the pressure to be happy and cordial during the holiday season can exacerbate these issues. Despite this, it is important to note that if you are feeling down, sluggish, or sad during the fall and winter months and it is impairing your life, you may be suffering from SAD. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for those suffering from SAD.
Researchers have found that there are a number of things that have been effective in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder. While medication therapy can be effective, for those who live in colder and darker climates all over the globe, light therapy is a popular and effective solution.
Light therapy is the process of exposing yourself to bright, warm light using a lightbox. A lightbox is exactly what the name suggests: a box that emits light that simulates the sun’s warmth and brightness. Our brains can’t tell the difference between artificial and natural sunlight, so a lightbox can help us produce more vitamin D. In some parts of the world, where darkness looms for months at a time, light therapy is a day-to-day part of life.
Spring and Summer SAD
Researchers have found that about 10 percent of people diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder find that their symptoms manifest during the spring and summer, the time of year where most people living with Seasonal Affective Disorder find reprieve from their symptoms. Interestingly enough, these cases often pop up in hotter environments closer to the equator where the warmer months are particularly brutal. Some people who live in these hotter climates find themselves spending more and more time inside away from the heat, and thus their exposure to sunlight decreases. They also spend less time with family and friends. Both of these factors contribute to seasonal affective disorder.
Regardless of where you live or when your symptoms start to worsen, seasonal affective disorder is a real and debilitating emotional disorder that is caused by a variety of factors. Understanding the root causes of your symptoms may help you remedy their effects on your daily life.
Seasonal affective disorder affects many people around the globe. From the coldest, darkest climates to the warmest and wettest, seasonal affective disorder can interrupt many aspects of our day-to-day lives. We may feel sluggish, sleepy, and withdrawn during times of the year where socializing and being around others is expected of us. If you find that you get depressed and anxious around the same time every year, you may be living with SAD. At Achieve Concierge, we strive to provide our members with a level of professional care that is tailored to meet their mental and emotional needs. Our members have access to a litany of services that can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder. Some of these include cognitive behavioral therapy, medications for depression, and transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy. The fall and winter months are approaching. If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to Achieve Concierge today at +1(858) 221-0344.