Now during the month of March, the days are getting longer and we poke out of our winter shells. The avid summer goers get a giddy feeling of excitement as the temperatures slowly start to rise. This change of season can either be a signal of hope or despair for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a sub-type of major depression. Many symptoms of major depression can be a part of SAD, like feeling depressed most of the day, feeling hopeless or worthless, having low energy, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, having problems with sleeping, experiencing changes in your appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, having difficulty concentrating, and/or having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. However, seasonal affective disorder, like its name, changes with the seasons.
The most popular cases of SAD are fall and winter SAD, sometimes referred to as winter depression, and spring and summer SAD or summer depression. These two types of seasonal affective disorder have different symptoms than each other. However, all symptoms still fall under major depression. Fall and winter seasonal affective disorder have characteristics such as: irritability, tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with other people, hypersensitivity to rejection, a heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes, and/or weight gain. On the other hand, people who suffer from spring and summer SAD exhibit symptoms such as: depression, trouble sleeping (insomnia), weight loss, poor appetite, agitation, and/or anxiety. These symptoms all fall under major depression. It is only considered seasonal affective disorder if the symptoms have a definitive start and stop that correspond with the seasons.
It's important to remember that depression and SAD are different for everyone. SAD can also spark changes in one suffering from bipolar, often experiencing depression in the fall and winter months. There is still no definitive cause of seasonal affective disorder, but it is much more common if you are female, young, have a preexisting condition, or live far from the equator.
This spring, remember to be mindful of others who may be suffering from SAD and not enjoying the change of season.
For more information about seasonal depression, visit Mental Health America.
by Keegan McGonigal
About the Author
Keegan McGonigal is currently an intern with i understand for the 2016-2017 school year. He is a senior at Kent Innovation High School, soccer player, and mental health advocate.