Things Only People With Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Understand

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common disorder that affects approximately one in every 30 Americans, which adds up to the entire population of Michigan. Rosie O’ Donnell is known for famously voicing her struggles with SAD. This seasonal depression is often caused by a lack of sunlight and can be worse during the winter months when the days are shorter.

There can be a lot of stigma around SAD due to lack of understanding and just writing it off simply as “winter blues,” but it is crucial to go see a professional if you suspect you might be suffering. Here are some other things associated with SAD that are simply not true.

SAD is interchangeable with the “winter blues”

During the winter, it can be quite common for individuals to feel a change in their mood and loss of energy due to the sun setting earlier and the temperature getting colder. SAD does not fall into the same category. It should be thought of as a very real illness that requires medical attention.

A person suffering from SAD often cannot recover from feeling down like a person who has the winter blues can by simply changing their scenery or being motivated to do something that they like. It often takes professional counseling, medication, and phototherapy (exposing patients to light to increase melatonin and serotonin levels).

SAD only can happen during the wintertime

It is most common to hear about SAD occurring during the winter months, but there is also a less common type of SAD that happens during the spring and summer months. The triggers for this type of SAD are attributed to warmer weather, humidity, and a change in schedules (especially if you have kids).

Individuals who experience this version of SAD often go through the same symptoms of anxiety and depression as those who suffer in the wintertime, but can instead have an increase in appetite and sexual arousal.

SAD sufferers also have general depression

Those individuals who are affected by SAD are not depressed year-round — in fact, they cannot be diagnosed with SAD if this is the case.

Once someone with SAD goes through a depressive cycle, they are able to bounce back to their old selves again. In order to be properly diagnosed, you have to be able to recover from these depressive bouts and have them around the same time for two consecutive years.

SAD sufferers are only adults

Like general depression, children can be affected with SAD as well as adults can. The symptoms can be similar to those of adults, where children act withdrawn, have unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, and trouble paying attention.

It is important to recognize these signs and not mistake SAD for general moodiness in a child. The most important thing for a parent to do for a child who is suffering from this disorder is to be supportive and patient. Offering a helping hand with homework, cooking them healthy meals, or setting aside extra quality time to talk is invaluable.

SAD sufferers are only women

It is commonly known that 90 percent of SAD sufferers are women, but individuals from any background, gender, or age can develop SAD. Although men are less at risk, they usually suffer from more severe symptoms.

This disorder can happen to anyone at any age, but studies have shown that younger people are more prone to developing SAD. Individuals who live further from the equator and experience bigger extremes between light and dark hours are more likely to be susceptible. One more contributor to the likeliness of having SAD is genetics, where individuals who have had family members that have suffered are more likely to be afflicted with the disorder as well.