About 5 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to suffer from a form of depression that generally occurs during the same period each year, known as seasonal affective disorder (or SAD). While a majority experience this type of depression during the autumn and winter months, it can also occur during the spring and summer as well.
The causes of SAD have not yet been definitively established, but they are thought to stem from changes in serotonin and melatonin levels. These shifts may occur in part due to longer or shorter daylight hours, which can impact everything from a person’s vitamin D intake to disruption of the circadian rhythm, or internal body clock.
Who Experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder?
While anyone can be impacted by this type of seasonal condition, certain people are believed to be at greater risk than others. Some of the more common influencers can include:
- Gender: The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests that SAD affects roughly four times more women than men.
- Location: This disorder is said to be more common in those living further from the equator, perhaps due to differences in available sunlight during certain seasons.
- Predisposition: Individuals who suffer from other forms of depression, or who have histories of SAD in their families, may be more prone to this condition themselves.
- Age: The AAFP also notes that seasonal depression is less common in teenagers and younger children, usually beginning to affect more persons as they enter into their twenties.
What Are the Symptoms of SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder can manifest itself in many ways, and symptoms may vary depending on what time of year a person is affected. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Physical symptoms (low energy or diminished interest in enjoyed activities)
- Sleep difficulty (insomnia or oversleeping)
- Dietary problems (overeating or unintentional weight loss)
- Mental challenges (poor focus, low self-esteem or thoughts of self-harm)
Many other symptoms can indicate the existence of SAD, including irritability and emotional oversensitivity. It’s important not to limit the range of recognizable factors, as they can differ greatly from person to person.
What Treatments Are Available?
There are several approaches to treating seasonal affective disorder. One common option is light therapy, a process that involves spending a prescribed amount of time near an illuminated box. This is designed to emulate the effects of sunlight and can help those affected by winter-onset SAD adjust to shortened daytime hours.
Other treatment options can include behavioral therapies or medication. A physician may choose to employ one or more methods, depending on a patient’s specific condition.
Find Help Today
Many people convince themselves to ignore signs of depression, or to simply “tough them out.” However, your mental health is just as important as your physical help. If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone you love, it is recommended to seek professional help.
At High Focus Centers, we offer programs effective in treating a spectrum of mental health conditions, including seasonal affective disorder. Contact us today and get yourself started on the path to recovery, a better you and a better tomorrow.