The holidays are upon us, and Americans are gearing up to prepare for all of the festivities. Though a time of joyousness for most, the holiday season can be fraught with anxiety and depression for millions of Americans. Millions of Americans report experiencing the winter blues, a time of increased depression from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which begins with fall and ends in the spring. Unlike the winter blues, SAD can negatively impact daily functioning and require a depression treatment program in Florida.
If seasonal affective disorder impairs your quality of life, reach out to Harmony Hills. Through our depression treatment program, you can learn the tools to overcome depression no matter what time of year it may impact you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Most people affected by seasonal depression experience a fall-onset, but others can experience a spring-onset that carries through the summer months. No matter the onset, the common denominator of seasonal depression is that the symptoms occur and resolve at a predictable time each year. While there is no clear-cut cause of seasonal depression, most experts agree that it is related to a combination of genetics, levels of serotonin and melatonin, and changes in sunlight exposure that disrupt the body’s internal clock.
It is important to remember that seasonal depression is a form of major depressive disorder (MDD) and is different from everyday sadness or fatigue brought about by the highs and lows of daily life. Following are five common signs of seasonal affective disorder:
- You always feel down and lethargic – SAD is marked by a persistent depressed mood and a feeling of negativity that you cannot shake. Finding the energy to do simple tasks feels overwhelming.
- Significant changes in appetite – Those with winter-onset SAD have considerable weight gain from excessive cravings for carbohydrates. Spring-onset SAD usually presents with noticeable weight loss resulting from a lack of appetite.
- Somatic complaints – Physical aches and pains, especially headaches and stomachaches, are frequent.
- A heavy feeling in the arms and legs – People with a SAD report that their limbs feel leaden and like they have pins and needles.
- You feel hopeless and have thoughts of suicide or death – Many people with SAD experience overwhelming feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, leading to thoughts of death and suicide.
A misconception about suicide is that it happens more frequently in the winter months, when in fact, suicide rates increase dramatically in April, May, and June. If you are having thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, seek help immediately.
Who Is Most At Risk for SAD?
Depression can affect anyone at any time, but certain people may be at higher risk. Common risk factors for depression include:
- Genetics and family history
- Death or loss
- Personal conflict or turmoil
- Past or current physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Significant life events
- Other chronic illnesses
SAD is more common in younger people and women. Other risk factors specific to developing seasonal affective disorder include:
- Having another mood disorder such as bipolar disorder
- Living far north or far south of the equator
- Living in predominantly cloudy areas
- Having other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder, ADHD, or eating disorder
If you think you have SAD, do not self-diagnose. Talk to your health care provider to rule out physical causes for your symptoms or other underlying mental health disorders. Do not avoid treatment because the symptoms of SAD last for only part of the year. Those few months can be enough time to cause significant problems in all areas of your life.
Contact Harmony Hills for Treatment of SAD or MDD
If you think you have depression, you should seek help, no matter the time of year. Though you cannot stop the seasons from changing, there are things you can do to help alleviate your seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Sometimes, however, you might need extra support from professionals skilled in treating depression. To learn more about options for treating SAD or MDD, reach out to Harmony Hills. Call 855.494.0357 or use our confidential online form.