This week, Daylight Savings Time ends, triggering a loss of light and the beginning of winter.
New Jersey residents know that winters can be rough. It starts snowing in October, our cars are buried through March, and the roads are strewn with potholes for the rest of the year.
But for some individuals, the coming cold means more than just shoveling and defrosting–it means overwhelming sadness and lethargy that can’t be shaken until the next spring.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is characterized by feelings of low energy and depression during late fall and winter. While symptoms of SAD are nearly identical to depression, an individual will only experience these symptoms during certain parts of the year.
SAD most often occurs during seasons of the year with limited or reduced sunlight. This is most likely due to the body’s dependence on light to produce serotonin and to balance levels of melatonin, a chemical that is produced in the dark. Consider your body’s natural tendency to desire rest at night. In the same way, increased exposure to darkness in the winter, can cause an individual to feel especially withdrawn and lethargic.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The following symptoms, if experienced during specific seasons, may be an indication of SAD. If experienced year-round, these symptoms may indicate another diagnosis such as major depressive disorder.
- Loss of energy
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in diet
- Isolation from others
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness and persistent sadness
- Abnormal sensitivity to rejection
- Weight gain or loss
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is most prevalent in young adults and teenagers, and, like depression, occurs most often in females. Individuals can help to reduce the effects of SAD by spending time outside. Exposure to natural light (not the harsh blue and white light of computers and smartphones) can help to boost one’s mood.
Individuals experiencing SAD may also benefit from therapy lights or softer lighting at home. In some cases, those with SAD are best helped through professional treatment or medication. If you or someone you know may be experiencing SAD, you should discuss treatment options with your doctor.
General Mental Health Programs at GenPsych
The Adult Psychiatric Program at GenPsych is an intensive and comprehensive program offered to help individuals struggling with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more. Adults receive support, guidance, treatment, and education in a safe and calming environment without fear of judgment. We help you learn the skills you need to manage your symptoms, gain control, and cope with the daily stressors or triggers in your life.