If you were granted one wish, what would you wish for? While you may think of wealth, eternal love, or fame, chances are “happiness” is at the top of your wishlist.
We all want to feel good. But sometimes as winter settles in, with the cold and fewer hours of sunlight, depression strikes. This kind of depression related to the change of the seasons is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with SAD or are new to the term, we’re here to help. At Nexclin Medicine, with three locations in Georgia, the staff wants to tell you the basics of SAD and whether or not it's hereditary.
What it is
The changes in seasons can be exciting. Seeing the brightly colored leaves in the fall can be beautiful at first. But as the temperatures dip, you might find yourself becoming down and not inspired to leave the house. If this sounds familiar, you might be struggling with SAD.
Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that’s linked to changes in the season, bringing feelings of depression, fatigue, low self-worth, and hopelessness. Usually, it begins and ends at the same time every year — for most people, it starts in the fall and ends in the winter.
Signs of SAD
Emotions are complex. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between feeling down and the signs of SAD.
Signs and symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling down all day, every day
- Losing interest in hobbies
- Feeling sluggish
- Sleeping too much
- Overeating and weight gain
- Experiencing thoughts of not wanting to live
- Feeling worthless
While SAD in the winter is more common, it’s important to note that it can also occur in summer. Summer depression may include slightly different symptoms like weight loss, anxiety, and insomnia.
Is it hereditary?
You might have a family member with SAD, leaving you to wonder if there’s a genetic connection. While a direct link is still unknown, having a family member with SAD can increase your risk of developing it.
Other risk factors include:
- Having depression
- Having bipolar disorder
- Location: living far from the equator
- Low vitamin D level
- Gender: SAD is more common among women
Being diagnosed with SAD is never fun, but luckily, most people live happily with treatment.
It may be easy to blame SAD on the “winter blues,” but this doesn’t change the situation. The best way to be the best version of yourself is by starting treatment. Naima Cheema, MD treats patients with SAD in a variety of different ways, depending on the condition’s severity and your lifestyle.
Treatment options may include:
Phototherapy, also called light therapy, involves a special lamp filled with tubes that emit 20 times brighter light than a normal lamp. Place the lamp by you for 30 minutes while you do normal activities like reading, eating, and watching TV. In just a few days, you experience resolved symptoms and improved energy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
As a type of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavior therapy changes your thought cycles to improve your mood and behavior. Your treatment is designed to establish healthy ways to respond to stressors. CBT is one of the most effective ways to treat SAD with long-lasting results.
You may need medication if SAD symptoms are severe. An extended-release version of the antidepressant bupropion can be used to help prevent SAD. You take it before you develop symptoms, and its effects extend for weeks after to ensure you remain in lifted spirits. It may take several weeks to see an improvement.
Vitamin D supplements
Low vitamin D levels are common among people with SAD. Vitamin D plays an important role in the production of serotonin, which is responsible for happy feelings. The daily dose of vitamin D for adults is 10-15 micrograms, but Dr. Cheema may suggest you take more if you’re deficient.
If you’re diagnosed with SAD or think you have it, help is just an appointment away. Call 770-558-2873 to get started on treatment, or book online.