For some, the winter is hardly “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects nearly 10 million American adults and can make a few months out of the year feel downright unbearable. It’s common to feel bouts of the winter blues, but those with seasonal depression may experience symptoms and low moods that sometimes make everyday tasks feel impossible.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about seasonal affective disorder, its treatment options and how it affects people’s daily lives.

1. SAD isn’t just about the cold & dark weather

Seasonal depression or the “winter blues,” is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

2. SAD is more common in women

One of the best documented gender gaps involves a mood disorder — depression. Women have higher rates of depression than men, including SAD, Harvard Health describes. However, that doesn’t mean men are immune. Depression doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any biological factor.

“Women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression. They also have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (chronic depression).”

3. Fall and winter SAD symptoms

Above all, mental health conditions like SAD are manageable, but only if people seek the help they need. Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. Recognizing these signs & symptoms within yourself and getting evaluated is important.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

4. There are multiple ways to treat SAD…

A few treatments are:

  • Light therapy (phototherapy)
  • dTMS
  • Counseling
  • Medication management
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Spending more time outside
  • Other stress management techniques

But keep in mind that the best method varies from person to person, Dr. Abbas says. Any active treatment is better than nothing.

5. When to see a doctor

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.

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