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Seasonal Affective Disorder: What to Do When You’re Feeling SAD

Winter is coming. And while this means we have the holidays to start looking forward to, it also means that shorter days and colder temperatures are on their way in too.

Some people may find that their mood tends to drop as the temperatures do, that their days may become harder as they start becoming shorter. If you find that your mental health is affected by the changing of the seasons, you aren’t alone.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, for short) is a type of depression affecting around five percent of Americans that is generally related to seasonal changes. Most commonly, individuals experience SAD during the transition from spring and summer to fall and winter, although the opposite pattern exists as well. Experts believe this is related to the decrease in the amount of daylight that occurs during the winter. Fewer hours of daylight can disrupt the body’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm, and ultimately lead to changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and mood.

What does SAD look like?

Seasonal Affective Disorder typically lasts around 40% of the calendar year and generally impacts women more frequently than men. Symptoms of SAD may include things like a depressed mood, losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed, changes in energy levels, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, and difficulties with concentrating. In plenty of cases, these symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the seasonal transition progresses.

How can I cope with SAD?

If any of the above information resonates with you, don’t worry: SAD can be treated. It’s normal to have days where you feel “off”, but if you notice yourself beginning to fall into a routine slump you should see a mental health professional or your primary care physician for assistance. Talk therapy is a common treatment for depressive disorders and can help teach you coping skills and develop routines to help decrease the severity of your symptoms. Light therapy, or phototherapy, is also used in the treatment of SAD. This involves using an artificial light source to mimic natural light to trick your brain into producing more “happy” chemical signals, like serotonin. Lastly, a professional may prescribe antidepressants to assist in the alleviation of symptoms associated with SAD.

No matter what your Seasonal Affective Disorder looks like or how it’s treated, your experience is valid. Stay warm this winter, and feel free to reach out to Regent University’s Psychological Services Center if you feel we can be of help!

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