Seasonal Affective Disorder- Symptoms, Causes and Treatment -How to Deal with Seasonal Depression

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to seasons change. The disease begins and ends around the same time each year. If you have this disorder like most people, your symptoms will start in the fall, continue through the winter months, deplete your energy, make you moody. 
SAD rarely causes depression in the spring or early summer. There are many risk factors for SAD, including family history, physical ailments, low serotonin levels, circadian rhythm syndrome, and diet or medication changes. 
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy. 
Some effective ways can help prevent and cope with seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Seasonal depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder- Symptoms, Causes and Treatment -How to Deal with Seasonal Depression

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with changes in seasons, where seasonal affective disorders begin and end at about the same time each year. 
If someone is suffering from a seasonal affective disorder, the symptoms will start in the fall and continue into the winter months. 
SAD reduces body energy and makes a person anxious. Seasonal affective disorders will cause depression in the spring or early summer. 
The exact cause of SAD is not known, but there are many theories about why some people develop more severe symptoms than others, including low serotonin levels, physical ailments, circadian rhythm syndrome, and diet or medication changes. 
Treatment methods for SAD may include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy. Take steps to maintain your mood and your motives should be constant throughout the year.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

In most cases, symptoms of seasonal affective disorders appear during late fall or early winter and disappear during the sunny days of spring and summer. 
Some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that start in the spring or summer and this is less common, in both cases, the symptoms may start mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorders may include:

⇨Loss of interest in the activities you once enjoyed
⇨Feeling depressed most of the day almost every day
⇨Having problems with sleep
⇨Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
⇨Feeling stagnant or excited
⇨Feeling desperate, you feel that you are worthless or guilty
⇨Having difficulty concentrating
⇨Low power rate
⇨Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Winter Depression
Symptoms of winter-based seasonal affective disorders, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Appetite changes, especially the desire to eat foods rich in carbohydrates
Prolong sleep
Fatigue or low energy

Summer Depression
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in early summer, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
Poor appetite
Weight loss
Agitation or anxiety
Seasonal Changes in bipolar disorder
In some people with bipolar disorder, spring, and summer can lead to manic symptoms or a less severe form of mania (hypomania), and autumn and winter may be a time of depression.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) vs. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. It is a deep concern or fear of being judged, negatively rated, or rejected in social behavior or performance situation.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that emerges in particular seasons of the year and goes into a seasonal pattern.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The exact cause of the seasonal affective disorder is still unknown, and some factors that may come into consideration include:

Circadian rhythm: Your circadian rhythm, low sunlight levels in autumn and winter may cause a severe winter and this lack of sunlight may disrupt your internal clock and lead to depression.

Serotonin levels: The decline in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, may play a role in sadness. Low sunlight can cause a decrease in serotonin that can lead to depression.

Melatonin levels: A change in season can disrupt the balance of the body's melatonin level, which plays a role in sleep and mood patterns.

Risk Factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Factors that may increase the risk of the seasonal affective disorder include:

Gender: Seasonal affective disorders are more often diagnosed in women than in men.

Age: Seasonal affective disorders occur more often in younger adults than in older adults.

Family History: People with genetic seasonal affective disorders may be more likely to develop another form of depression.

Bipolar Disorder and severe Depression: Depressive symptoms may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.

Living away from the equator: Seasonal affective disorders seem more common among people living far north or south of the equator. This may be due to low sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.

Complications of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The signs and symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder are taken seriously, as with other types of depression. The condition can get worse and lead to problems if not treated. These may include:

Social withdrawal
School or work problems
Taking drugs
Other mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders or eating disorders
Suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior
Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if seasonal affective disorders are diagnosed and treated before symptoms become worse.

When Should You See a Doctor?
It's normal to feel a few days when you're frustrated, but if you're comfortable for days at a time, and can't be motivated to do activities you usually enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite change, as you turn to alcohol to rest or relax, or you feel hopeless or contemplating suicide.

Diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Even with an in-depth assessment, it can sometimes be difficult for your mental health professional or doctor to diagnose a seasonal affective disorder, because, other types of depressive episodes or mental health conditions can cause similar symptoms. 
To help diagnose the seasonal affective disorder, your doctor or mental health professional may perform a comprehensive assessment, generally including:

Laboratory tests: For example, your doctor may perform a blood test called a complete blood test or a thyroid test to make sure it works properly.

Physical test: Your doctor may perform a physical examination and ask in-depth questions about your health. In some cases, depression may be associated with an underlying physical health problem.

Psychological assessment: To check for signs of depression, ask your doctor or mental health professional about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. You can fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.

DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria: Your mental health professional may use criteria for seasonal depression listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy. If you have bipolar disorder, tell your doctor this is crucial when prescribing light therapy or antidepressants, both treatments can lead to mania.

Light Therapy
In light therapy, you can sit a few feet away from a special lighting box so that it is exposed to bright light during the first hour of waking up daily. 
Light therapy mimics natural light in the open air and appears to alter the brain's mood-related chemicals. 
Light therapy is one of the basic treatments, usually starting in a few days to a few weeks and causing some side effects, but it seems to be effective for most people in relieving the symptoms of seasonal affective disorders. 
Before you buy a light-box, talk to your doctor about the best option for you, and learn about a variety of features and options so that you can buy a safe and effective quality product. Also, ask your doctor how and when to use the lightbox.

Some people with seasonal affective disorders benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if the symptoms are severe. Bupropion - an extended version of antidepressant - can help prevent depressive episodes in people who have a history of SAD. 
Other antidepressants may be commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorders. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants for the initial treatment of depression before symptoms usually begin each year, and may recommend taking antidepressants until symptoms disappear normally. 
Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice the full benefits of antidepressants. 
In addition, you may have to try different medications before you find a drug that works well for you and has few side effects.

Psychotherapy is another option for treating depression, and a type of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy can help:

Learn healthy ways to deal with seasonal affective disorders, especially while reducing evasion and scheduling behaviors.
Identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may make you feel worse.
Learn how to manage environmental stress and seasonal depression.

Mind-Body Connection:
Examples of mind and body techniques that people may choose to try to help deal with seasonal affective disorders include:

Relaxation techniques like yoga
Guided images
Music or art therapy

Alternative Medicine
Some herbal remedies, supplements or mind-body techniques are sometimes used in an attempt to relieve symptoms of depression, although it is not clear how effective these treatments are in seasonal affective disorder. 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbal remedies and supplements in the same way as medicines, so you can't always be sure what you get and whether they are safe. 
Also, since some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescribed medications or cause serious reactions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements. 
Make sure you understand the risks as well as the potential benefits if you follow alternative or complementary treatment. When it comes to depression, alternative treatments are not a substitute for medical care.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Some home remedies and lifestyle choices can help treat seasonal affective disorder, including:

Make your environment brighter: Open the curtains, cut down the branches of the trees that block sunlight or add shade to your home, sit near bright windows while at home or in the office.

Exercise regularly: Exercise and other types of physical activity can help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase symptoms of seasonal affective disorders. Exercise can make you feel comfortable with yourself too, which can boost your mood.

Go out: You can walk for a long time, have lunch in the nearby garden or simply sit on the benches and enjoy the sun, even on cold or cloudy days. External light can help, especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of waking up in the morning.

How to Deal with Seasonal Depression

Effective ways to prevent and cope with seasonal affective disorder
There is no specific way to prevent the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder. However, if you take some early steps in dealing with symptoms, you may be able to prevent yourself from worsening these symptoms over time. 
For some people, it is helpful to start treatment before the usual symptoms appear in autumn or winter, and then continue treatment beyond the usual date for the disappearance of symptoms. 
Others need continued treatment to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. If you can control your symptoms before they get worse, you may be able to avoid serious changes in mood, appetite, and activity levels. 
These simple strategies can help you cope with seasonal affective disorders:

Stress management: Learn techniques to better manage stress, and unmanaged stress can lead to depression, overeating, or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

Stick to your treatment plan: Follow your treatment plan and attend scheduled treatment dates.

Make new friends and get a social life: When you are frustrated, it can be difficult to be social, make an effort to connect with the people you enjoy being with and can provide support.

Take care of yourself: Get enough sleep to help you feel comfortable, but be careful not to get too much rest, as the symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder often lead people to feel stable. Participate in an exercise program or participate in another form of physical activity regularly, and select healthy options for meals and snacks, do not turn into alcohol or recreational drugs for rest.

Take a trip: If possible, you can spend winter vacations in sunny and warm places if you have a severe winter.

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