What is Seasonal Affective Depression?

Living with any form of depression is difficult. Fortunately, for those suffering with seasonal affective depression, symptoms are usually similar year after year. People who suffer with seasonal affective depression can expect their symptoms and prepare in advance.

Seasonal affective depression (SAD) is a form of depression that comes and goes with the changing seasons. Most people call it the “winter blues” as symptoms are at their highest during the coldest/darkest months of the year. SAD reliably clears up on it’s own each year usually.

In this article we’ll discuss what the symptoms of seasonal affective depression are and how individuals might cope. Also, clues to be able to identify SAD and popular treatment options. We’ll also touch on what experiencing this form of depression is like and typical treatment options.

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Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms across all types of depression can be the same or vary by individual. While seasonal affective disorder (depression) is fairly predictable, the symptoms can change depending on the individual’s current circumstance.

It’s important to understand that not all SAD symptoms are experienced due to the cold, dark days of winter. Sometimes people experience seasonal depression when the weather warms up instead.

Some people (myself included) might not be able to understand this as we look forward to longer days and not having to bundle up outside.

However, there are plenty of people who experience depression as the seasons change and summer arrives as well. Here are the tops symptoms of seasonal affective depression.

  • Fluctuations in Weight – During winter SAD, weight gain is typically seen while weight loss is typically seen with summer SAD.
  • Thoughts of Suicide – Someone with depression (any form) may experience thoughts of suicide when they’re not actually suicidal. It’s so important to understand this.
  • Anxiety – In some cases episodes of anxiety and panic attacks will be experienced.
  • Fatigue – Whether someone is getting their “8 hours” every night or not, fatigue is usually an unavoidable symptom of depression. Seasonal depression often hits hard and will throw the individual experiencing it for a loop even though they might be expecting it. Dealing with it is extremely emotionally taxing.
  • Irritability – Often, some people are not aware that they’re depressed. They only know they’re sad or in a “funk”, and their extreme discomfort will cause them to lash out or become irritable.

How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The best way to cope with with seasonal affective depression is to seek professional counseling and/or talk to your doctor about an appropriate medication. Check out this article on the 11 Benefits of Mental Health Counselors.

If anxiety is something you struggle with (along with SAD) being proactive about eliminating the vicious cycle of it will help ease other symptoms as well.

Other great ways to cope with SAD include implementing a healthy diet, exercising regularly, engaging in uplifting activities and establishing a fulfilling, relaxing hobby.

Don’t underestimate the power of simply eating well (nutritious, clean, whole foods) and regular exercise when it comes to depression. A healthy mind starts with a healthy, vibrant body. Physical energy can be life-changing.

Another great tool to help cope with seasonal affective depression (and anxiety) are weighted blankets or various weighted accessories. You can check out some great weighted products from Mosaic HERE.

seasonal affective depression

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How to Identify Seasonal Affective Disorder?

It can be easy to identify seasonal affective depression compared to other forms of depression. The biggest clue might be how reliable it comes and goes with the seasons.

Many of us get a little “down” in the middle of winter when it’s too cold to enjoy being outdoors or you’re missing your weekend trips to the beach.

But experiencing SAD is much more severe than feeling “bummed out” about the continuously cold weather. Aside from the predictability, some might experience extreme anxiety knowing that the seasons are about to change.

Knowing that they’re about to experience the intense struggle of seasonal depression might trigger panic disorder/episodes or panic attacks.

Aside from changes in mood, sleep and appetite, predictability and anxiety are two of the biggest ways to identify seasonal affective depression.

What does Seasonal Affective Disorder feel like?

Depending on the severity, seasonal affective depression feels like a big dark cloud is always hanging over you. Someone might feel worthless, hopeless, guilt or shame.

They might feel feel like there is no reason to get out of bed in the morning. It might feel like you’re running in place through a long, dark tunnel with a backpack full of rocks on your back.

Progress, motivation, excitement and passion might seem so far fetched. It might feel like it’s been months since you’ve felt any positive emotions even though it hasn’t been that long. The individual’s emotional well-being will be lacking and very fragile.

seasonal affective depression

Being as supportive as possible and offering advice (if requested) can help your loved one navigate through their seasonal depression much more quickly.

Treatment Options

Seasonal affective depression is one of the most treatable disorders. Since it’s such an obvious disorder, people often know that they have it without being diagnosed.

There are many things you can do to help speed up treatment and achieve a better state of mind (stated above). Being proactive about one’s mental and emotional health will significantly supplement the professional treatment/medication they might receive.

The top treatment options for seasonal affective disorder are…

  • Professional Psychotherapy (talk therapy). Try online therapy for a more convenient option!
  • Medication. Antidepressants might be a good option depending on your particular circumstance. Talk to your doctor if you think this is a good option for you.

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Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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