So here it is, fall. The leaves are turning, the weather is cooling down, most people are gearing up happily for the holiday season. Except, you’re not most people. Your mood is not lighthearted nor full of good cheer. Something about the falling leaves makes you sad and you suddenly feel as if you have no explanation for your sadness. Does this sound like you? Does this sound like someone you know? If so, this article is for you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real disorder and affects 10-20 % of American population. What really is SAD? How does one get SAD? Can it be treated? Here are important facts to know about SAD.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is a depression that occurs when the season changes. This mostly occurs in the fall and winter months when there are shorter days and less sunshine. Less commonly, there are those who can experience this type of depression during the spring months. However, in most cases, people begin to feel better in the spring and summer months.
Who is Affected by SAD
Like most types of depression, SAD is not a bias mental health disorder. It can affect anyone of any age, race, religion or gender. There are studies that have shown SAD tends not to affect people under the age of 20 and your chances of having it diminish as you get older. People who have a diagnosis of depression are more likely to get SAD.
Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Pervasive sleepiness
- Changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual)
- Craving starchy foods
- Weight gain
- Crying episodes
- A feeling of sadness you can’t shake
- Disinterest in normal activities
- Loss of focus
- Lack of interest in social settings
How to Treat SAD
First, you have to acknowledge there is a problem. A lot of people write it off as just having “winter blues.” They believe it’s something that will dissipate on it’s own. This line of thinking can lead to an unnecessary struggle. If you notice these symptoms are lasting more than a week or two, call your doctor. Talk with them and they will come up with the appropriate treatment plan for you. Most often, treatment includes light therapy, medication and behavioral therapy. All of these maybe prescribed or one of them; it depends on each individual’s circumstances.
SAD Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy
Living in a society where mental health is still a stigma doesn’t make things easy. Though we’ve made substantial strides in how mental health illness is perceived; we still have room for growth. There is still an ill conceived notion that somehow being affected by mental health makes you “crazy,” or that needing medication means you’re destined for a padded room. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mental health illness affects 18.5% of the American population (which is 1 in 5 adults or 43.8 million people).
The best way to fight the stigma is to educate yourself and those around you. If you or anyone you know shows these types of symptoms; don’t be afraid to speak up. There is power in knowledge but more importantly there is healing.
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