Seasonal Affective Disorder called S.A.D is a seasonal depression caused due to the changes related to seasons — It starts and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, impoverish your energy and making you feel moody.
Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer. It is also called as winter depression, winter blues or seasonal depression. It causes your mood to change and becomes upset by reduced daylight hours during fall and winter. Even people who have normal mental health throughout the year may experience depressive symptoms at the same time each year.
This seasonal disorder is characterized by irritability, oversleeping, increased tiredness, changes in appetite, and reduced motivation to participate in social activities.
Although experts were initially distrustful, the condition is now recognized as a common disorder. The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV & DSM-5) was changed and is no longer classified as a unique mood disorder but is now it is proved that it is seasonal pattern for recurrent major depressive disorder that occurs at a particular time of the year.
SAD is prevalent in America with 10 million Americans affected with the disorder. Another 10- 20 % may have mild SAD. The disorder is four times more common in women than in men. The age of onset is estimated to be between the age of 18 and 30. Many people experience symptoms too severe that it affects quality of life, and 6 percent require hospitalization.
If you are affected from the Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may experience:
- Moody, sad, grumpy, or anxious.
- You may lose interest in your usual activities.
- Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
- Gain weight.
- Felt tired even after sleeping more.
- Trouble in concentrating.
Women are likely to experience the disorder four times more than men to due to the disorder’s association with female hormones. Individuals, who have been previously diagnosed with depression, or those with family history of depression, are at an even higher risk for SAD.
The reduction in light exposure causes shifts in hormone and chemical levels in the brain. The two main hormones responsible for SAD are serotonin—responsible for 'feel good' mood and melatonin—responsible for inducing sleep.
Some people may experience it more due to their more sensitivity than others to the reduction of natural light during the day and will produce more melatonin and less serotonin during the autumn and winter months.
As the disorder is caused due to reduction in light, the most common treatment for SAD is light therapy, which consists of daily exposure to light that mimics outdoor light, leading to increases in serotonin levels in the brain that will help lift moods and relieve other symptoms.
It is best to start light therapy early in the fall, much before symptoms appear or they become to get too intense and interfere with school work and other daily activities.
It can also be treated by limiting our daily intake of full-spectrum daylight and supplementing it with too much artificial 'limited-spectrum' indoor light, especially blue light at night, and by shielding ourselves from the sun with such things as tinted windows, windshields, sunglasses and suntan lotions.
As our skin manufactures natural vitamin D in presence of sunlight while light entering the eyes regulates vital circadian rhythms that control appetite, energy, mood, sleep, libido and other body-mind functions.
As other kinds of depression, exercise and frequent trips outdoors can help prevent or relieve SAD symptoms. Don't brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Make your efforts to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
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