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Everything You Want to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Ruijia Wu writes about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and how to recognise it as a mood disorder that follows the seasonal changes.


Most people with SAD are in good health for most of the year yet they begin to feel symptoms of depression more often in winter and sometimes in summer. In the tropics, SAD is rare, if it exists at all. However, north of 30 degrees north or south of 30 degrees south latitude, SAD is incredibly common.


"I'm not a psycho, I'm not crazy, so why see a psychiatrist?” “I just don't sleep well and I'm in a bad mood.” Compared to the vibrant and lively masculine spring and summer, as the season moves into the yin season of autumn and winter, when the sun is weakened and sunlight is reduced, people can tend to feel less emotionally assure.


Depending on the person, this feeling can take many different forms.


For about one in 20 people in the northern United States, shorter days and longer nights combined with a fall in temperatures can be a key cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that hits in the fall and winter and then disappears in the spring.

Unlike the mild condition known as the Winter blues, SAD can cause physically symptoms in the body. SAD can manifest in many ways. For example, it begins with what is known as dull symptoms such as a larger desire to sleep longer, difficulty in getting up in the morning and fatigue when studying or going to work. Moreover, there’s often an increased appetite for carbohydrates such as French fries or ice cream.

Over the next three to four weeks Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and an expert on SAD, says "the mood plummets." People with SAD can suffer from severe depression, which can include persistent sadness, withdrawal from friends and family, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Researchers don't yet know why some people develop SAD and others don't. But the disorder is believed to run within families and is more common in women. SAD is most common in autumn and winter when shorter days and less sunlight change the body's internal clock. Certain mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin, fluctuate with the seasons. It’s important to make sure if you are feeling these symptoms that you are not alone and that there are people around who are willing to help you.


If you find yourself in a seasonal mood disorder, remember that you are bound to come out of it bitterly. The seasons will eventually change, and the longer days and shorter nights are just ahead. Winter has arrived, can spring be far behind? Rebounds happen, but don't get discouraged. It's normal to feel frustrated if your body isn't working with you the way it should. But the important thing is to focus on the whole person and take care of your physical and mental health. If you do this throughout the year, and not just when winter depression hits, there are additional benefits to be had. Seek help, contact friends and family, or consult a medical professional when you need it. Without realizing it, the gloomy, short days and long nights will eventually become better and brighter.


How many of the 10 indicators are you hitting?


  1. Persistent sadness and the urge to cry for no apparent reason.

  2. Little things that didn't used to upset you can now drive you crazy.

  3. Anxiety is magnified and the more you think about it, the more anxious you become and the more you can't stop.

  4. Loss of interest and joy in people and things that used to interest you.

  5. Neglecting to take care of others, pets or yourself, such as not brushing your hair, not taking a bath or forgetting to feed the dog.

  6. Eating and sleeping abnormally. Eating a lot more or not wanting to eat. Sleeping too much or not sleeping at all.

  7. Feelings of helplessness, disenchantment with the world and a sense of hopelessness for the future.

  8. Can't stop thinking negative thoughts. Some of these thoughts are fictitious, but you don't easily notice them.

  9. Increased dependence on drugs, alcohol or the internet.

  10. Poor memory and comprehension.


Remember that this is not a formal diagnosis and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms talk to a professional.

 

Words by Ruijia Wu

Photo: GIPHY