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  • Writer's pictureSarah Howell

Shedding Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder: A Guide to Understanding and Coping

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Light The Way Counseling, PLLC | Sarah Howell, Masters Level Intern


As the days grow shorter, the weather colder, and the skies grayer, many of us find ourselves experiencing shifts in mood and energy levels. For some, this seasonal change can trigger a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In this blog post, we'll address what SAD is, its symptoms, potential causes, and effective strategies for coping and improving your mental well-being during the darker months.


What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?


Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, typically during the fall and winter months. Although it is most commonly associated with the colder seasons, some people may experience a reverse pattern, with symptoms occurring during spring and summer.


 

Symptoms of SAD


1. Persistent Sadness: A pervasive feeling of sadness or hopelessness that persists for days or weeks at a time.


2. Fatigue and Low Energy: People with SAD often feel unusually tired, lacking the motivation and energy to engage in daily activities.


3. Changes in Sleep Patterns: You might notice changes in your sleep habits, such as oversleeping or struggling with insomnia.


4. Appetite Changes: Cravings for carbohydrates and comfort foods are common, as well as decreased appetite.


5. Difficulty Concentrating: A diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions can be a sign of SAD.


6. Social Withdrawal: You may find yourself avoiding social situations and becoming more isolated.



 

Causes of SAD


While the exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is not fully understood, several factors contribute to its development:


1. Reduced Sunlight: The decrease in sunlight during the fall and winter months can disrupt your body's internal clock, leading to changes in hormone production and neurotransmitter activity.


2. Melatonin Production: Reduced exposure to natural light can cause an increase in melatonin production, leading to feelings of drowsiness and fatigue.


3. Serotonin Levels: Lower sunlight levels can also result in decreased serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood.


4. Circadian Rhythm Disruption: Changes in daylight hours can disrupt your body's circadian rhythm, affecting sleep patterns and mood.

 

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder


1. Light Therapy: Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to a bright light that mimics natural sunlight. This can help regulate your circadian rhythms and improve mood. Consult a healthcare professional before starting light therapy.


2. Exercise: Regular physical activity boosts endorphins and can help combat depression. Even a short walk outside can make a difference.


3. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help you manage stress and improve your emotional well-being.


4. Healthy Diet: Be mindful of your food choices and try to maintain a balanced diet.


5. Social Support: Stay connected with friends and loved ones. Isolation can worsen SAD symptoms.


6. Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy can be effective in helping you understand and manage your SAD symptoms.


7. Medication: In severe cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressant medications to alleviate symptoms. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any medication.



Seasonal Affective Disorder is a challenging condition, but with awareness, understanding, and the right coping strategies, you can navigate the darker months. Remember, seeking help from a mental health professional is crucial if you suspect you may have SAD or if your symptoms are significantly affecting your daily life. You don't have to face it alone, and there is support available to you.



Here at Light the Way Counseling we have a trusted team of providers that would love to be a support to you. If you are in need of services or are simply interested in learning more about the counseling process please reach out at admin@lighthewaycounselingpllc.com.




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