Many of us are affected by the weather, particularly during the long months of winter. Dark gloomy and grey days can cause many people to feel gloomy and grey themselves, even to the point of becoming depressed. The condition is known as SAD or seasonal affective disorder and it is a very real concern for those who suffer from the disorder. Winter is the primary time period for this malady but it can happen any time of the year, in any season.<
Winter depression can be a serious mood disorder
Those who feel the effects of cold damp and dark winter days and have sad feelings which may become severe are usually completely normal during most of the year. The seasons affect many of us by giving a confined almost trapped feeling. In extremely cold climates they may actually be house bound for periods of time due to heavy snow fall or the effects of ice storms.
According to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) do not have a unique or individual mood disorder. Rather it has been determined to be a specific form of major depression.
SAD sufferers may feel depressed for months
Many who suffer from the disorder find they sleep a great deal and have extremely low energy levels. Difficulty awakening in the morning, craving carbohydrates, and overeating are common.
Withdrawal from normal activities and friends, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating are all possible signs of this seasonal disorder. Classic depression symptoms are very common in those who suffer from SAD, included are pessimism, lacking pleasure in otherwise pleasant activities, decreased sex drive, irritability, and anxiety are typical.
These common symptoms of depression do tend to disappear once the cause, or season, goes away. Summer time suffers often have a heightened sense of anxiety. From one to nearly ten percent of the adults in North America suffer from some degree of seasonal disorder at various times of the year.
Therapy can bring about improvements in mood
Therapeutic treatments for most Seasonal Affective Disorders can include light therapy which may involve bright lights or exposure to additional amounts of sunlight during those dark gloomy days which seem to trigger the depression.
As an alternative to bright light therapy, a high percentage of sufferers have found “dawn simulation” to be quite effective. This treatment involves increasing the quantity of light gradually over a period of up to two hours rather than all at once. Treatments using ionized air, as well as the hormone melatonin have shown to be effective treatments for SAD. Supplements including serotonin may help overcome the dark moodiness.
The four criteria specific to Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are four distinct symptoms that are used to diagnose the seasonal pattern specifically known as SAD and they include episodes of depression only at specific times of the year (generally during winter or summer months), characteristic remission or hypomania also during specific time or season of the year, seasonal episodes of depression should outnumber any other periods of depression during the lifetime of the sufferer, and these conditions must have been felt for at least two consecutive years.
Light or lack of light seems to be the culprit
Many sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder are obviously affected the most by lack of light during dark winter days. Living in the northern climate where there are few if any hours of appreciable sunlight have shown to be common locales for the negative effects of the lack of sunlight. Risk of major mental depression and even including thoughts of suicide are not uncommon during the seasons people are affected by the most. Anywhere from six to thirty five percent of those suffering from SAD require hospitalization as some point.