What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Mood disorders can arise in various forms, and one of these forms is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). What distinguishes SAD from other similar disorders is that SAD occurs around the same time every year. In general, this disorder usually occurs in the early days of autumn and lasts until the late days of winter which are usually the bleakest and coldest months of the year, which is where the name comes from.
What causes SAD?
Despite countless studies, the major reason as to why people experience SAD is still undecided. However various doctors and researchers lean towards the idea that SAD is caused by factors relating to light. During the autumn and winter season, the body experiences changes which are triggered by the absence and decreased amount of sunlight. For example serotonin, a chemical which affects the mood, decreases when there isn’t much sunlight. Melatonin, which affects mood as well as sleep patterns also goes down during the said season. A decrease in the levels of both can somehow affect a person’s mood and thoughts, although not usually for the better.
How does it affect people?
Like in most cases of depression Seasonal Affective Disorder can greatly affect the individual’s ability to be happy. People suffering from SAD manifest behaviours such as those experienced by people who suffer from depression in general. They show signs of unexplained sadness, irritability and exhaustion. Seasonal Affective Disorder can also have negative effects on the way they perform and their behaviour in the workplace or at school. Signs of social withdrawal and decreased social activities are also observed. In its most dire stages, people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder can resort to substance and alcohol abuse or worse, show signs of suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Can SAD be treated?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. Many doctors and therapists have diagnosed and treated people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder successfully. There are different ways to approach SAD treatment. For one, there is the so-called light therapy, where the patient is exposed to a light-box which mimics outdoor light. This is supposed to affect and increase the levels of the above mentioned chemicals and thus help uplift the mood. Another treatment is with the use of medications or drugs namely anti-depressants. However, SAD treatment, like other treatment for depression should be supplemented with support and counselling.
If you think you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or have in the past, then please call us today and book an appointment.