SAD Is Serious
Seasonal affective disorder is more than just the winter blues
Not only is mid-fall the start of flu season, it’s also the unofficial start of seasonal affective disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD) season, which lasts throughout the fall and winter months. Most wonderful time of the year? The 5% of U.S. adults with SAD think not.
A lot of people who are bummed out about shorter, colder days approaching joke that they’re experiencing “seasonal depression,” but in reality, seasonal affective disorder is a potentially serious mental health condition, much more than bits of fleeting sadness.
It’s completely normal to feel down about the seasons changing. After all, who wants the sun to set before they even get out of work? Plus, it’s often when the weather gets colder that people aren’t able to be as active in the outdoors as they’d like and start to feel all cooped up. Enter: cabin fever.
However, there are big differences between winter blues and actual seasonal depression. People experience natural fluctuations in their moods over the course of days and months. The winter blues are more common than SAD, affecting about 14% of American adults. If you’re experiencing the winter blues, you might be more tired than usual, a little less motivated to get out and socialize, and not as happy as you are in the summer, but it all doesn’t really get in the way of life. SAD is an actual mental health condition that can impair your day-to-day life — feeling depressed most days, actively withdrawing from friends and family, lacking hope for the future, being unable to get by at work, and even feeling suicidal.
Someone with SAD will experience similar symptoms that people with general depression do, which involves much more than just a bad mood. And according to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD sufferers will experience these symptoms for 40% of the year.
“[SAD] is significantly different than being sad in that it’s typically a repetitive mood cycle where each year, as fall and winter come along, the person starts to experience depressive symptoms — low mood, anhedonia [inability to feel pleasure], poor concentration, sense of guilt or worthlessness, changes in appetite and weight, and changes in sleep,” says Paraskevi Noulas, PsyD…