While some people get excited for snow covered trees, fireplaces glowing, and getting bundled up in their warm clothes, there are many others who dread this time of year – and not due to the typical “holiday stress”.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder that comes on during a specific season, typically winter. Although there are people who develop SAD in the warmer months, the majority struggle with it during the colder, darker months – and understandably so. Approximately 10 million Americans are affected by SAD, and it’s four times more common in women than in men. It’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 30. In terms of treatment, some combination of light therapy, vitamin D supplementation, antidepressant medication, and counseling seem to be the best options.
Often people think of SAD as just “hating the winter”. First off, it’s deeper than just disliking cold weather. As a matter of fact, people can develop SAD in the warmer months as well! Some may experience body image issues during bathing suit season. Others may feel that the constant heat or sunlight is too uncomfortable. Additionally, people often stay up later in the summer, causing a lack of sleep and their circadian rhythms being thrown off.
Therapy lights are one of the more common treatments for SAD. It simulates sunlight, which activates serotonin in the brain. Therapy lights are not your run of the mill lights that you pick up at Home Depot. Therapy lamps emit light that is about twenty times greater than regular indoor lighting. If you are suffering from SAD, it’s recommended that you sit in front of the therapy light for anywhere from 20-60 minutes per day.
In terms of self-care, pay attention to depressive patterns that tend to happen around the same time each year (yes, even if it is during the warmer months). Typically, SAD can be diagnosed if someone experiences seasonal depression during the same time each year, for two consecutive years. If this sounds like something you are experiencing, please reach out for help – you do not have to go through this alone.