If you find yourself feeling a little sad, worried, and depressed every year at this time, you may have a cyclical disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course, this year’s cumulative effects of the pandemic and the accompanying isolation, illness and lifestyle interruptions have made lives even more stressed and have made people more likely to possibly suffer the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. But what really are the causes of this mental health issue that seems to plague so many of us this time of year?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression characterized by the change of seasons. It usually begins in the late fall or early winter and continues during winter months. So why are people more unhappy overall when the seasons change? The end of daylight savings time, has an impact. We already experience less daylight during the winter, and moving the clocks makes the days seem even shorter. This reduced sunlight during the winter can cause a change in certain hormones. A lack of sunlight triggers an increased production of melatonin which helps your body sleep. This throws off your body’s circadian rhythms, or “biological clock.” A disrupted sleep schedule can result in symptoms associated with SAD. Less sunlight also causes a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. These lower levels can also trigger depression.
Symptoms specific to Winter onset SAD, which is the most common, are tiredness, lack of energy, a craving for carbohydrates, lack of motivation, appetite changes and changes in sleep patterns.
What are some interventions for SAD? We can’t speed up the calendar, but there are certain steps that can be taken to improve how you feel.
- Good sleep hygiene (same time to bed, same time awake) No electronics in the bedroom.
- Good nutrition
- Light therapy
- Moderate Exercise
- Get outside as often as possible even if it is cold and cloudy—our bodies are craving Vitamin D this time of year, and we can get it even if it is cloudy.
The good news is that there are tools which, if used on a consistent basis during the winter months, will assist you in a positive way with your Seasonal Affect Disorder symptoms, and help you live a better life overall.
If you have any questions, call us at Perspectives Counseling Centers 248-244-8644
Ann M. Dadah. MA., LPC
Ann Dadah is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has Been with Perspectives Counseling since October of 2020. She has two Master’s Degrees in Counseling, one from the University of Detroit Mercy and the other from the University of Michigan. Prior to October 2020, her experience has been in the Community Mental Health field. Ann treats Adults and Adolescents and specializes in Depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, OCD issues, and other behavioral and emotional disorders.
Some Information for this article was adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health and SAMHSA Behavioral Health