The time change last month, in addition to the shorter days in the winter season, has led to fewer hours of sunlight in a typical day here in Chicagoland. For most of us, decreased exposure to sunlight can leave us feeling out-of-sorts, no matter how many years we have lived in the Midwest. However, the majority of us can shake off our feelings of crankiness or exhaustion and look eagerly toward spring. If you find yourself feeling unable to look toward brighter days, you could be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that is directly related to the change of seasons. The Mayo Clinic describes SAD as beginning at the same time each year – the fall and winter seasons – and leaving those affected feeling exhausted and depressed.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Feeling tired due to less sunlight is common and doesn’t necessarily indicate SAD. However, if you find any of these symptoms are affecting your daily life, it is time to schedule an appointment with your physician or counselor.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disruptions (sleeping too much or not enough)
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
  • Feeling depressed and unable to shake it
  • Decreased energy or motivation
  • Feeling angry, agitated, or anxious
  • Having thoughts of self-harm

While Seasonal Affective Disorder is most associated with shorter days during the fall and winter seasons, people can experience SAD symptoms during spring and summer changes as well.

Treatment Options for Seasonal Affective Disorder
When you call your physician or mental health professional to talk about your symptoms that could indicate SAD, you will first go through a few tests to officially diagnose you. These tests could include verbal assessments and lab testing. Once you have been diagnosed, your mental health care team can best treat you.

Some treatment for SAD can include light therapy, which you can do at home with a prescribed light box in the morning. Thanks to a special lamp, your body can be fooled into producing more endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can lead to decreased feelings of depression or anxiety. Beyond light therapy, people who live with SAD can benefit from prescription medications and talk therapy to lessen symptoms through the season.

If you feel you could be living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you don’t have to wait it out until spring to feel better. Find a local professional near you who can give you the help you need.

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