Written by: Mia Netland
We hear the term “seasonal depression” used a lot to describe when our mental health gets worse in the winter, but what is it actually? In medical terms, it is called winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it is a very real depressive disorder. Below, you can find detailed answers to frequently asked questions regarding SAD, including information about its symptoms and guidance on seeking help, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Q1: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
A: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real form of depression characterized by a recurring seasonal pattern. It typically lasts for 4 to 5 months and can manifest in different ways depending on the season.
Q2: What is the most common form of SAD?
A: The most common form of SAD is winter-pattern SAD, where symptoms are prominent during the colder months. SAD can also occur in warmer months, known as summer-pattern SAD, although it is less common. Both are valid forms of depression.
Q3: What are the symptoms of winter-pattern SAD?
A: Common symptoms of winter-pattern SAD include hypersomnia (excessive sleeping), abnormal cravings and weight gain, as well as social withdrawal.
Q4: Do all individuals with SAD experience the same symptoms?
A: No, symptoms can vary depending on the seasonal pattern, and not every person will experience all the listed symptoms.
Q5: Is winter-pattern SAD more common in certain areas or individuals?
A: Yes, winter-pattern SAD is more prevalent in regions with shorter daylight hours in the winter months, such as in New England. Individuals with SAD also tend to suffer from other mental disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
Q6: What should I do if I suspect I have SAD?
A: If you believe you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is recommended to talk to your health care provider or a mental health specialist. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend suitable treatment options.
Q7: What steps can I take to reduce the symptoms of SAD?
A: A simple step you can take is to increase your exposure to a brighter atmosphere. Indoors, this can mean keeping the lights on, opening blinds, and/or sitting closer to windows. The most natural, bright sunlight can be accessed by going outdoors. Regularly exercising and keeping a consistent sleep schedule can also improve your mental health.
For more information on seasonal affective disorder, refer to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you or someone you know is in serious distress and needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.