Do you find yourself sad and anxious in the winter months?
Are you irritable, withdrawn and lack focus or the ability to concentrate?
Does your energy level wain when the sun is in short supply?
Do you feel extremely guilty, hopeless or worthless?
Does your body feel like it’s laden and heavy, as if it’s been hit by a major flu bug?
Do your sleep and eating habits change?
If so, you just may have a seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
It’s a pretty new term, coined in the mid 80’s. The symptoms and disease have been around for an eternity, it was just never documented in a formal and clinical manner that put a term to it. This depressive mood disorder known as seasonal affective disorder creates some, many or all of the following symptoms:
- fatigue, limited energy, low sex drive
- headaches, heavy laden achy body (flu like)
- poor sleep habits (varies from insomnia, trouble getting to sleep or waking up suddenly)
- depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, crying
- irritability, hypersensitivity, mood changes, low motivation
- lack of concentration, indecisiveness, no focus, dullness of the mind “brain fart”
- withdrawn and less social
- poor eating habits often with cravings for carbs and sweets
possible causes of seasonal affective disorder
There is some “gray area” in the cause of seasonal affective disorder but generally it is related to sunlight, vitamin D, diet, genetics and social factors. Here are the main causes that definitely contribute to the disorder:
- lack of vitamin D and poor diet
- brain chemistry – change in serotonin, melatonin or other body chemicals, usually brain specific
- biological clock (circadian rhythm) – body is used to sunlight, winter depletes it
- childhood or other trauma
- family history or people with a personality prone to depression & anxiety
- psychological or social factors
- poor air quality and oxygen levels
who is at risk
Again in the scientific community, the thoughts are varied but the range is 5-10% of the population with another 10-15% suffering fluctuating moods.
That’s one in 4 people.
There is a higher frequency with:
- northern climates
- people with a family history
- sufferers of other depressive disorders
- those aged 15 to 55
note – there is a rarer version that happens in the summer with an increase sex drive, insomnia, anxiety, lack of appetite and agitated moods
complications and results from seasonal affective disorder
If, year after year, you continue to suffer from seasonal affective disorder it can become very debilitating. Sometimes it turns into a full blown depression or bi-polar disorder. Not something anyone wants to go through. Often people turn to suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and problems with work & school. With these problems the emergence of poor relationships and social skills start to develop into strong often set character traits that need a lot of work to eliminate or reverse.
diagnosis and prognosis for seasonal affective disorder
If you have been depressed for 2 seasons in a row, have a history of sad or many of the symptoms listed above it is likely that you are suffering from some form of depression and probably seasonal affective disorder.
The prognosis is almost always good. With the proper resources and treatment seasonal affective disorder can be eliminated or controlled completely. Like many diseases and disorders prevention is always the best cure. Make sure you address your winter blues, don’t just forget about them because they are going away…believe me, they will come back if left untreated.
Next time we will talk about what you can do to treat seasonal affective disorder.
Roxanne Dryden Edwards, MD, What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?, Medicine Net, http://www.medicinenet.com/seasonal_affective_disorder_sad/article.htm
Seasonal Affective Disorder, Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) topic overview, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-topic-overview
Seasonal Depression (SAD), emedicinehealth, http://www.emedicinehealth.com/seasonal_depression_sad/article_em.htm