Seasonal Affective Disorder

Long Island winters bring with them many mixed feelings. Almost everyone enjoys the beautiful sights of snowflakes falling and the flawless, fluffy blankets of snow. Yet, at the same time, popular vote proves that most people can only tolerate it for a short period of time.

In a short time, the novelty of winter wears off and people dread the cold, slippery roads, and worse, the short, dark days. Cabin fever spikes quickly and temperaments become even more sensitive. In fact, it is very common for individuals to experience many symptoms of depression. This is often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and although it is usually temporary, it is a very real disorder and should not be ignored.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of recurring depression that is typically triggered by the onset of the fall and winter months. SAD is believed to occur, largely due to a reduced amount of exposure to sunlight. This causes a change in chemical levels produced by the brain. The human body is a very sensitive organism, which means that even the slightest changes can lead to problems. The chemicals most likely associated with SAD are serotonin, which affects mood, and melatonin, which is responsible for sleep patterns, as well as mood. Reduced exposure to sunlight can disrupt the natural biological clock, causing a shift in the body and mind.

What are the Symptoms of SAD?

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are very similar to those associated with depression. They are not situational or circumstantial, meaning that outside factors will not influence or change them. Additionally, those who suffer from SAD experience several symptoms, instead of just one or two. The most common symptoms associated with SAD are:

Sadness, Negativity, Anger/Irritability, Fatigue, Restlessness, Poor Sleep Quality ,Sleeping Too Much, Anxiety, Hopelessness, Poor Concentration, Change in Appetite, Abnormal Weight Loss/Gain, Loss of Interest in Normal Activities, Social Withdrawal

How is SAD Treated?

Just like most types of depression and psychological problems, there is not conclusive cure or treatment for SAD. Treatment varies, according to the individual. However, the most common forms of treatment are:

  • Light therapy: Light therapy, from specific lamps designed to replace the role of sunlight, replenishing the body’s need for light in a positive way.
  • Medications: Some medical professionals will prescribe anti-depressants for those individuals whose symptoms are very severe or cannot be controlled.
  • Psychotherapy: Working through the depression and issues with a professional therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, can help many individuals work through the problems and gain control over the symptoms.

Not only is it more difficult to treat if symptoms progress, but it may take some time to properly diagnose. Additionally, it may take several weeks for treatments to work.