Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year. Although it can occur in spring or summer, it typically begins in late fall and lasts through the end of winter. It can sap your energy, amp up your carb cravings, and leave you sad and moody for months on end. Could you be at risk? If you fall into three or more of these categories, it may be time to take action.
You live far from the equator
Experts believe Seasonal Affective Disorder can be triggered by shorter days and less sunlight exposure. It affects an estimated 10 million Americans, and it is much more common in cold climates. For example, it’s seven times more common in Washington State and New England than in Florida (wow!).
You’re a woman between the ages of 18 and 45 with a history of depression
About 80 percent of SAD sufferers are women who started having symptoms during their child-bearing years. A history or family history of depression also increases your risk of SAD.
Your carb cravings are out of control from November to March
Eating more carbs when the weather is colder is common in people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to MIT researchers, this is because when you eat carbs, you make serotonin – the same “feel good” hormone that antidepressants boost.
You wish you could hibernate all winter
People who suffer from SAD often feel much more tired than normal during winter. Others have difficulty sleeping, which makes them feel even more fatigued. These sleep disturbances may also contribute to the sadness and mood swings associated with SAD.
You count the days until Daylight Savings Time
If you feel like a fog lifts in March when it’s time to set your clock ahead, that’s a pretty good sign that you suffer from SAD. In fact, if it happens every year (like clockwork), that’s almost a dead giveaway.
Light therapy, dietary supplements and counseling can make a big difference
Taking vitamin D and melatonin supplements may help you sleep better, improve your mood and boost your immunity. Getting more sunlight is easier said than done in some climes, so you might try light therapy. The most important thing is that you don’t ignore it, especially if it interferes with your daily functioning for several months at a time.
Only a professional can diagnose Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it’s important to seek help. Schedule a secure video session with a MDLIVE counselor who can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms for your SAD symptoms.