November 10, 2021

Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If you’re feeling particularly low during the winter months, you may be experiencing what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

By Annie Wright|Adulting, Anxiety, Depression
Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What Do I Do If I Think I Have SAD? While there are plenty of reasons why the winter season is a pleasant time for some, there are just as many reasons why cold weather is taxing for others.

Winter often brings colds and flu with it, and the chill in the air interferes with the ability to take part in outdoor hobbies.

In addition to the inconvenience of the cold season, you may feel more tired and irritable than usual as temperatures drop.

What happens, though, when the added fatigue and irritability become a long-term issue that accompanies you throughout the season?

If you’re feeling particularly low during the winter months, you may be experiencing what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder refers to a specific type of depression that’s brought on by the changing of seasons.

Most of the time, SAD episodes begin around the fall and extend into the winter months, though some cases have people experiencing symptoms in spring and summer.

Seasonal affective disorder causes individuals experiencing it to feel more tired, sad, and moody than other times throughout the year.

Symptoms associated with the disorder typically begin and end at about the same time in concurrent years.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

If the following symptoms have started to appear as the season changes, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder.

  • Low energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sluggishness
  • Sadness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to the symptoms of other depressive disorders, though they only appear during certain seasons, typically clearing up when the weather changes.

If it’s your first time experiencing symptoms of depression in relation to seasonal changes, it may be difficult to connect the symptoms with the season.

The issues you’re experiencing may feel like they’re coming from non-seasonal depressive conditions.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder

The cause of SAD is not certain, but many medical professionals believe that the following contributions play a role in the disorder’s development.

  • Internal clock disruption. Because the winter months see less sunlight and shorter days, the season may disrupt the body’s biological clock.
  • Chemical imbalances. Due to the lack of sunlight, the body may experience chemical imbalances that affect mood and sleep patterns.
  • Living far from the equator. Colder climates either far north or far south of the equator tend to see more cases of seasonal affective disorder than warmer areas closer to the equator.
  • History of mental health issues. If an individual already suffers from mental illness or has a family history of mental illness, he/she/they are more likely to develop seasonal affective disorder than those with no history.

Managing Symptoms of SAD

If you’re feeling low during a given season, there are a few steps you can take to improve your mental health.

  1. Take care of your physical health. If you can, have a physical performed, take vitamins, eat a healthy diet, and get moderate exercise.
  2. Consider your relationships. Nourish relationships that support and benefit your sense of wellbeing, and distance yourself from relationships that do the opposite.
  3. Occupy yourself with positive activities. Whether you attend church or participate in social causes, investing your time in positivity may help improve your mood.
  4. Limit your time on social media. If you are interacting with social media, try to ensure that you’re using it to support your mental health rather than damage it.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have SAD?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and you’re struggling to manage your symptoms on your own, you’re not alone.

Seasonal affective disorder can weigh heavily on a person, especially when you’re already in a stressful situation or do not have a support system.

If you’re having a hard time coping with the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, it might be time to speak with a licensed therapist.

It’s important to remember that there should be no shame in seeking help, and there certainly won’t be any judgment from the professional you speak with.

Sometimes mental health conditions are extremely difficult to manage alone, and if you’re struggling, it does not mean that you’re weak or hopeless.

Seasonal affective disorder is treatable, and if you feel that speaking with a licensed therapist will improve your situation, it’s advisable to do so.

If you’d like support in working through your relationship concerns, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many struggling couples and we would be honored to help you, too. 

Please feel free to book a complimentary 20-minute consultation with one of our licensed therapists if you know who you would like to work with, or you can book a consult call with our center’s clinical intake coordinator who will match you to the best-fitting therapist for your clinical and logistical needs.

Medical Disclaimer

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