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December: Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month

#RaisingAwareness About Seasonal Affective Disorder 

More Than Just the Blues 

For many people, this is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s the holiday season, the weather, or something else, the coldest time of year just sparks some joy, and that’s a wonderful thing. However, for many others, this is a difficult time of year, in ways that go beyond just preferring the heat of a summer’s day. People who have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, have a type of depression that is literally caused by the time of year, and find themselves experiencing all of the symptoms of depression during 4-5 months of the year. While many of us might get the winter blues at times, this goes beyond that– it’s a serious condition that many have never even heard of. That’s why December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month. 

SAD can happen to anyone, and the “season” that brings about depression can vary from case to case, but many people with SAD find their symptoms cropping up in autumn and winter, and not leaving until spring begins. Symptoms experienced by folks with SAD can be found on the National Institute of Mental Health website, and include persistent sad/empty mood, feelings of guilt and hopelessness, physical pains,and even suicidal ideation. Winter-type SAD can also bring about fluctuations in sleeping patterns and eating habits, causing folks to eat and sleep more, and socialize less. Conversely, summer-type sad can cause insomnia and loss of appetite, among other symptoms. 

Getting Help 

SAD is diagnosed not only by experiencing the above symptoms, but by consistently experiencing them more during a specific time of year than any other, and on a regular basis for at least 2 years. While SAD can be experienced by anyone, and can look different for everyone, it is more frequently experienced by women, and winter-type SAD is more common. Because of this, folks in the Northern hemisphere with more typical winter climates, might be more likely to have SAD. 

SAD can be treated in a variety of ways, including medication, Vitamin D treatment, light therapy, and psychotherapy. People who have SAD can benefit from beginning these treatments (with the help of a professional) before the season begins, so that they are prepared. If you think that you have SAD, it is wise to speak to your doctor to learn more about this condition, and determine whether or not diagnosis or treatment are right for you. 

National SAD Awareness Month, like other “awareness” months, is simply a time to put the focus on sharing information about this disorder, caring for yourself if you have this disorder, and helping to promote awareness about an often-stigmatized mental health condition. 

For more information about SAD, visit here and here. 

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