My daughter caught me by surprise recently with an interesting mental health, self-diagnosis. “Mom, I think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.” She explained that she had noticed her mood down-shift with the change of the season, particularly summer to fall. I reassured her she is not atypical; experiencing changes in mood is a healthy part of life. Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD is more serious, however. People who do have SAD experience symptoms which are more pervasive and disruptive to everyday life. An individual who has SAD may experience:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms may differ depending on the season. Specifically, during spring and summer, SAD symptoms include insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, agitation and/or anxiety whereas fall/winter SAD symptoms include oversleeping, cravings, weight gain, low energy.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not dismiss them as the holiday “blues.” In fact, pay close attention to how many days you feel down. Seek medical support if you notice you are withdrawing from your activities of daily living, isolating from friends, family and other things that interest you, if you begin to have school/ work attendance issues or other complications, an increase in substance use, anxiety and especially suicidal thoughts/behavior.
Though the prevalence and cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder are not well known, SAD is real and could be a slippery slope to more serious mental health issues if unchecked. Enjoy your holiday, seek help if you need it and BE WELL.