Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms are Psychological as well as Somatic
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of mild depression that occurs particularly in the gloomy winter months. The syndrome affects people who are deprived of natural sunlight for a prolonged period. Hence, individuals staying in extreme northern regions are vulnerable. Research suggests that less natural light can cause reduced production of certain chemicals in the body that are associated with sleep cycle and regulation of mood. The severity of seasonal affective disorder symptoms varies from person to person. Although SAD is a form of mild depression, in certain cases it may get severe and develop into a serious bipolar disorder.
A survey suggests that SAD in Europe affects minimum two percent people every year. It is highly common in extreme northern areas of United States. Research says about 9.7 percent of people in New Hampshire suffer from SAD symptoms. Among total number of SAD cases, about 10% people suffer from sub-syndromal SAD that is they face only mild SAD symptoms. Women are more vulnerable to SAD than men are. People begin to experience mild SAD symptoms at the fall of winter (beginning of September) and they increase as the winter month’s progress. In most cases symptoms will improve as the (around month of April) winter months pass by.
Common seasonal affective disorder symptoms
Constant sad feeling
Disinterest in daily activities
Avoidance of social interaction
Seasonal affective disorder symptoms (mild to moderate stage)
Sleep issues-Disturbed sleep pattern, oversleeping, feeling sleep during the day, unable to get out of bed, difficulty sleeping
Appetite issues- Poor appetite or craving for sweet, starchy and carbohydrate foods that leads to weight gain
Lethargy- Fatigue during the day, loss of energy, extreme tiredness, extra effort required to do everything
Depressive behavior- Guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, misery, anxiety, despair, irritation, frustration
Suicidal thoughts (This does not necessarily mean thinking of suicide all the time. Thoughts like not caring if I wake up tomorrow or life being worthless, “why and for what I should” live is among common seasonal affective disorder symptoms)
Slowing of movements
Feeling too emotional or weeping
Physical issues like stomach related concerns, joint pains, headaches and reduced resistance power against infections
Affirmation of the presence of the disorder
It is important to confirm if a person is actually suffering from the disorder and the symptoms are not of some other illness or side effect of certain medications. A person suffering from SAD should display the following seasonal affective disorder symptoms.
The patient should be suffering from one of the major symptoms like mood fluctuations, disinterest in daily activities or unvarying sad emotion.
Apart from this, the person should have at least five of the other symptoms that last for minimum two weeks.
The symptoms in some ways should have hampered normal (daily) performance.
Signs should often appear to be severe early morning after or while waking up.
Last but not the least, it is important to observe if the signs appear every winter for at least two successive years.
Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can affect the self-esteem of a person and leave them with a feeling of loneliness, disappointment and isolation particularly if the disorder is not diagnosed and treated. Untreated seasonal affective disorder symptoms may develop into severe mania or hypomania. The good news is SAD can be treated. Most patients feel better as the winter months pass by. In severe cases anti-depressant medication and light therapy where a special lamp is used to mimic sunrise or bright daylight helps improve SAD symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, air-ionization administration and psychotherapy have proven to be useful. For proper and prompt treatment of SAD, it is important to recognize seasonal affective disorder symptoms in time.