What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What is it? When does this happen in your life? What does it feel like?
What are some causes? When does it show up? How does it affect us? What are the results of this? Lets YAC about it!

You Are Collective's Resource Graphic for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Defined by The Mayo Clinic:
"Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer."

So.. What Does This Mean?
Listen, we all have our bad days, some worse than others, but if you find yourself having those bad days rather consistently after the sun starts to set on summer this may be something worth looking into! "The Winter Blues" is just a name we've given this depression to shrug things off, but there are actual chemical imbalances going on and you don't deserve to feel this way. If you've noticed a tough transition from summer to fall or winter to spring you'll probably be experiencing many of the symptoms below.

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
Although the specific cause is unknown, there are definitely factors playing a part in all of this. Reduced sunlight as we head into the cooler months is #1. It can result in a disruption with your biological clock leading to feelings of depression, it can cause a drop in serotonin levels (a brain chemical affecting mood). Your melatonin levels can also be triggered by this change in season and this is the body's chemical that plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Although the sun is a big part of it, there are other things to consider... Does SAD or other types of depression run in your family? Do you already experience other forms of depression yourself? And something we can't always control is where we live - naturally the further from the equator the less sunlight (or too much in the summer) can be a factor.

What Are The Symptoms?
Physical & Psychological Symptoms:
- feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
- losing interested in activities you usually enjoy
- low energy
- problems with sleep 
- changes in your appetite or weight 
- feeling sluggish or agitated
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
- frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Specific to Fall/Winter SAD:                                Specific to Spring /Summer SAD:
-Oversleeping                                                       -Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
-Appetite changes (craving carbs!!)                      -Poor appetite
-Weight gain                                                          -Weight loss
-Tiredness/low energy                                           -Agitation or anxiety

How Is It Treated?
Fortunately, there are treatments for this mental illness and many can be done from home or somewhere you feel comfortable! Light Therapy or Phototherapy can be extremely useful when used correctly. Essentially it's a special light box you're exposed to within the first hour of waking up each day. This light therapy acts like natural outdoor light you were used to having in the summer and can cause a positive change to your brain chemicals which is linked to your mood. Medication is always an option through talking to your doctor. It will likely be an antidepressant you take through your months of SAD but could be used longer to help mitigate any symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another way to help you learn healthy ways to cope with this depressive feeling by identifying your negative thoughts and stressors and working with them. Mind-Body Connection allows you to help cope and become more in tune with how you're feeling. This could be through different exercises such as yoga or tai chi (any relaxation techniques), meditation, guided imagery, or music/art therapy! There are also a few habits you can form to help cope with SAD including getting more exercise, getting outside as much as possible even on cold or cloudy days the natural light can have a great impact (especially if this time outside occurs within the first two hours of you waking up). Try making where you work/eat/play sunnier by sitting closer to windows, trimming back branches that would otherwise shade in the place, open the blinds! It could be one treatment, it could be all of them, don't be afraid to find what works for you ... and don't be afraid to share it with us through YAC AT US!
Let's YAC About It!
We all have different variants of Seasonal Affective Disorder, in most cases, it is a lack of sunlight doing a lot of the damage. Although we can't hold that sun here even if we tried, there are still lots of ways to harness all the goodness the sun brings to help us cope through the chillier months. We'll be YACing about how Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts us and times when we have experienced some or all of the symptoms above. This blog is an introduction to a four-part series and our last installment will introduce all sorts of resources and ways to find the help you need. Thank you again for everyone who got to this point- and again, don't be afraid to YAC about it!

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals and are not able to provide licensed medical advice. This is a platform to relay information and share about mental illness. 

Mayoclinic.org. (2018). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2018].

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