Episode summary introduction:
Seasonal affective disorder affects around 10 million Americans. SAD is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder where episodes of depression take place during the same season each year. This can be referred to as the "winter blues," because the most common seasonal pattern is for depressive episodes to appear in the fall or winter and diminish in the spring. SAD can occur during the summer months, but this is less common. If someone has SAD during the summer, this usually starts during late spring and remits in the fall.
The exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown. There are a couple of factors that researchers think play a role in SAD. First this idea is that people with SAD may have an imbalance of serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects the entire body, but most importantly stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. Researchers also believe that the body makes too much melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Lastly the third piece is not enough vitamin D, from the lack of sunlight exposure. This is why persons who live farther away from the equator tend to be affected more by SAD.
It can be difficult to diagnose SAD because other types of depression or other mental health conditions can cause similar symptoms.
Treatment options include Light therapy, Antidepressants, Psychotherapy, and Mind-Body Connection.
This year seasonal affective disorder may be worse. With many around the world already experiencing some level of depression from the helplessness and confinement that this pandemic has brought, seasonal depression is only adding another layer. There are many avenues to get help for depression, if you are feeling depressed, reach out for help.