SAD: A Guide to Seasonal Affect Disorder
Have you ever noticed a dip in your mood around wintertime? Or notice any of your family or friends being more depressed, less enthusiastic, or having a case of the blahs around this time or season? It could be Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). It occurs when there is less daylight (shorter days) which is common in the northern hemisphere. Studies have shown that people living north of the equator often experience SAD symptoms and this is directly related to less exposure to Vitamin D- something sunlight provides us.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
- Feeling down or depressed with the change of the season
Most particularly felt as Fall changes to Winter.
- Feeling a lighter mood with the change of the season
Often felt as Winter changes to Spring.
- Inexplicable dysthymia
A case of the blahs- kind of like a low-grade fever you just can’t shake.
- Increased irritability
- Low Vitamin D levels
Have you had a blood test show you are low?
- Noticing improvement in mood as the days become longer
As Spring approaches, you are exposed to more sunlight.
- You respond to Vitamin D supplements
Do you notice your mood improve when taking supplements?
- Lack of motivation or interest in activities or hobbies
You typically enjoy or are motivated to participate in something but, coinciding with the change of weather or seasons, are no longer as interested or motivated.
What can you do?
- Get a physical
Rule out any other medical issues by seeing your primary care physician.
- Have your Vitamin D levels tested
If below normal, take a Vitamin D supplement (with assistance of your PCP).
- Keep a log
Record your mood throughout the day for at least a week to see if there is any correlation with the time of day you feel certain ways.
- Get a “happy light”
A therapeutic blue light device can provide you the light exposure you are missing.
- Have realistic goals
If it is a dreary day, don’t try to conquer the world.
- Surround yourself with positive people
Positivity fosters postivity!
- Don’t isolate
Push yourself to be in contact with friends and family, even minimally. Something is better than nothing.
- Seek counseling
Working with a counselor can help give you real-world strategies to cope and manage your SAD.
Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 19 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan here.