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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The days are shorter, the temperatures are colder and it gets dark a lot earlier; these are just some of the reasons that many of us tend to feel a bit down during the winter months.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is described as a type of depression that’s felt as the seasons change. So Often times, people think of SAD as nothing more than the “winter blues” – after all they call it SAD; however, this condition can be a lot harder to handle than one would think.

Symptoms of SAD usually begin during the fall and will last throughout the winter months. We become less energized and our zest for life drains due in part to the change in weather. It isn’t until the spring and summer that we begin to relinquish these feelings of depression.

Before you can treat SAD, you must first understand its symptoms:

  • Appetite changes and, more specifically, craving high-carbohydrate foods.
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Irritability
  • Oversleeping
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people

If you’re still unsure as to whether or not you’re suffering from SAD, a visit to your primary care physician might help you better understand your symptoms and possibly diagnose this condition.

Usually, your physician will do a thorough evaluation, which may include:

Lab tests – Your doctor might request a complete blood count (or CBC) to make sure your thyroid is working properly.

Physical exam – In-depth questions paired with a complete physical exam can help diagnose an underlying physical health problem that might be contributing to your symptoms of depression.

Psychological evaluation – A doctor or mental health practitioner will conduct a psychological evaluation and inquire about your behavior, feelings, symptoms and thoughts to make a more informed diagnosis.

SAD is a subset of major depression and bipolar disorder. Though there are tests to better assess a person’s symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult for physicians to differentiate SAD from other types of depression.

If you’d like to learn more about this condition, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. However, if you feel like you or someone you know is considering self-harm or suicide, seek emergency help immediately.

Check back in the coming weeks to learn more about the treatment options for SAD.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20021047

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