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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Ibelema, MD

How Do You Know If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Are you having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? Do you have less energy? Are you feeling like you don't want to leave your home? As the seasons change, you can experience internal biological changes that can negatively affect your mood and leave you feeling down. That " down feeling" could be more than just a little "winter blues". It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that that usually shows up in the fall or winter, and then goes away in the spring. It tends to occur more often in women than in men, and is more common in those who already have a mental health condition. Seasonal affective disorder is common, and it's estimated that 10 million Americans suffer from SAD each year. Many suffer in silence, and go undiagnosed or untreated.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There isn't a "depression test" or "SAD test" in the traditional sense. There isn't bloodwork that can be done to determine if you have depression, and the vital signs that doctors and medical professionals use to gauge the state of your physical body tell us very little about the most nuanced parts of your brain psyche. Therefore, medical professionals look for certain signs and symptoms when there is a concern for depression. The signs and symptoms of SAD are similar to the signs and symptoms of depression. They include the following:

  • Feeling depressed or down

  • Losing interest in activities you usually like

  • Having low energy

  • Having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Sleeping too much

  • Having a loss of appetite

  • Having an increase in appetitive

  • Overeating

  • Weight gain or weight loss

  • Having difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide


When To Get Treatment

It can be normal to have occasional days when you feel down. However, if you feel down or depressed many days out of the week, or if you are having some of the other symptoms above, you should see a doctor or therapist. Treatment for SAD can include light therapy, medications like anti-depressants, and psychotherapy. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255)


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