Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may have one of the most appropriate acronyms ever created. It’s a mental health condition that’s actually a form of depression that occurs seasonally—typically during the fall and winter, when the days are darker and colder. It’s a surprisingly common problem, with about 5% of the US population suffering from SAD each year. Understandably, people living in the northern areas of the country are more likely to suffer from SAD than those living closer to the equator. More women are affected by SAD than men, at a ratio of about 3:1. Though most people with SAD experience symptoms in the fall and winter, a rare few begin to be affected during the spring, with symptoms lasting through summer.
So what are the symptoms of SAD? Because the condition is a form of depression, the symptoms are similar, and can include:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sleep problems
- Problems concentrating
- Changes in appetite
Though SAD is seasonal and partially influenced by changes in hormones like serotonin and melatonin that are influenced by sunlight, that doesn’t mean that people who suffer from the problem have to just wait for it to pass. Visiting a primary care doctor or mental health professional for diagnosis is the first step. Then, treatment options like light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy can be used to help ease the symptoms of SAD. Patients should also consider natural therapies like exercise, supplements, and even aromatherapy. If you think you might have SAD, you don’t have to suffer in silence!