Do you know what Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is?
It’s a type of depression that’s brought on by a lack of sunlight. It usually hits during the fall and winter months, and it can hit hard. SAD can, less often, bring about dark moods in the spring and summer. It is recurrent during a specific season for at least two years.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you SAD is not “real depression” or not serious. In fact, the signs of SAD are the same as for chronic depression, which – as we know – can be life-threatening. This means that SAD can be life-threatening, too.
One thing is clear: Depression, in all its forms, sucks.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT SAD
SAD can affect anyone, whether you are prone to chronic depression or not. Like other types of depression, it affects women more than men, and it’s more common the more North you go. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, having major depression or bipolar disorder can also be risk factors for developing SAD. You can read about additional risk factors and symptoms here and here.
I’ll tell you what, I’m glad I don’t have SAD in addition to my Major Depressive Disorder. That would be like the double-whammy of depression! Here you are, living with chronic depression, and then it gets even worse for the six months or so of less sunlight, at least here in the Upper Midwest. As if having one type of depression isn’t bad enough – some people have it worse.
And that’s pretty scary.
Since one of the causes of SAD is lack of sunlight, one of the ways to get through it is to get more sunlight, right? Well, depending on where you live, that might not be an option. Sure, getting outside does the body and the brain good (as long as it’s above freezing!), but whether or not you get any s-u-n is up to Mother Nature.
One way to combat SAD is with light therapy, aka phototherapy (I call them Happy Lamps ). The light they emit mimics sunlight. Now, I don’t have SAD, but I did just buy a happy lamp from Amazon. There’s a picture of it below this post (sorry it’s so big; I can’t figure out how to resize photos on here!) and this one cost about $35. It can’t hurt, right? I figure the more tools I have, the better.
I got it two weeks ago, and I’m just now getting in the swing of using it every morning for about 20 minutes. If you choose to get one, make sure you read the directions, which will guide you on the best time of day and on how long to use it.
If you think you may suffer from seasonal depression, reach out to a professional. This type of depression can be very serious and should not be something you should “ride out” just because you know it will go away. Why suffer in the meantime?
Please, don’t ever believe your brain when it says there is no hope. When you have depression, your brain becomes very sensitive, it tries to convince you to be scared – even of yourself, and it just might tell you that life is not worth living. That is the biggest lie of all. In other words, don’t believe everything you think!
If you think you are suffering from SAD or any other type of depression, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself. Feel free to peruse the DepWar website and look around for plenty of free suggestions
Here are a few things you can do about it right now:
- Call your county’s mental health helpline. It is my understanding that every county in the U.S. has one. You can find yours online. Try Googling “[name of your county] mental health department”.
- Ask your friends and family members for referrals to a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. It can be hard to pick any old therapist or pdoc from the Yellow Pages (I’m showing my age here!), so suggestions can only help.
- Check out these online resources. Maybe one of them will be able to help (h/t to Sophia Moore, Mental Health Advocate, for this link).
- Try to get outside, even if it’s really cold out. Crisp winter weather can be invigorating. Going for a short walk can do a shitload of good for your mood. Can’t do it every day? That’s okay! Go when you can. (You get a free pass on days when it’s blizzarding, sleeting, raining, icy, or when it’s so cold your nose hairs freeze!)
Remember, seasonal depression is depression, and it is treatable. Don’t dismiss it as your “usual” or as an annual challenge that you simply need to put your “big girl pants” on for. Like other types of depression, SAD can get worse over time if not treated.
Every kind of depression should be handled with care, not taken lightly. You are important and your mental health matters.
Take care out there, and remember to Keep it Real. <3
Previously Published on depressionwarrior.com