Recent studies have confirmed that seasonal affective disorder is a genuine malady affecting people as the light shifts and the weather changes toward the end of the year. People experiencing seasonal affective disorder may find themselves moodier, more depressed, or more anxious than usual, and may be less adept at dealing with their feelings. Here is some information about the science behind seasonal affective disorder, wellness tips for those who suffer from it, and advice and facts for those who do not experience it.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that has been linked to a regular seasonal pattern, often taking effect when the weather begins cooling down and the light changes. Scientists disagree as to the reason behind its seasonal nature – whether it is due to the general lack of outdoor activities and the corresponding lack in vitamin D coupled with the longer nights and shorter days, or to the drop in the daily average temperature is uncertain. What is known is that around 5 percent of the population experiences it in some form each year.
How to identify seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a subset of major depression, rather than a natural, temporary downturn of one’s mood. As such, it has several symptoms in common with clinical depression. While not all people will experience all of these symptoms, experiencing a majority of them for an extended period of time may indicate that you are currently suffering from, or have suffered from, seasonal affective disorder.
First, it is linked to a lack of energy. You may not feel up to taking on your daily tasks or even spending time with friends or family. It can also manifest itself as a reduced ability to concentrate, or an overreliance on eating or alcohol as a source of comfort. Other symptoms include general anxiety and constant worry, fitful sleep or insomnia, and feelings of being alienated. Finally, the key element differentiating seasonal affective disorder from standard major depression is that it is chronic, occurring regularly, in sync with each year’s seasonal shift.
While it is most commonly associated with the change from summer to autumn and winter, people occasionally report symptoms during the shift back to spring and summer. If you think that you or a loved one have been experiencing a majority of these symptoms, it may be time to seek some form of professional help. In the meantime, there are a number of wellness strategies you can try.
Wellness strategies for those with seasonal affective disorder
If you are currently suffering from seasonal affective disorder, don’t give up hope. There are a number of things you can do to make the winter seem more bearable. Some strategies are simple – for instance, even if you are not generally a morning person, waking up in time to see the sunrise can start your day on an optimistic note. Make sure you get a certain amount of exercise each day to release endorphins that boost positive feelings in general while making your body feel better. Also, take time to plan things to look forward to, like dinner with friends. Even if you don’t feel like going out, it is healthy to have some form of social interaction. Finally, don’t neglect basic self-care. Even the simplest activities, like working out and eating regular meals, can help you boost your mood.
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