Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that effects at least 5% of people in the US yearly and can last up to 40% of the year. It is more than just ‘Winter Blues” which can happen to all of us if we are stuck inside a lot more. It can be mild or severe and can interfere with your health and daily functioning of life. What is unique about SAD is that it gets triggered by a change in seasons, and then resolves about 4-5 months later.
Although most people associate Seasonal Depression or SAD with the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, in some people it can occur in other seasons, and with the same type of seasonal rhythm. Those with Seasonal Depression usually begin in late fall and go through the winter, but for a small percentage of people, it can begin in Spring/Summer. The key thing is that it is depression that comes and goes depending upon the season.
SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain. As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule.
- Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
- Problems with sexual desire and performance
- Feeling sad, “empty,” flat, or hopeless, or ‘having a depressed mood”
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Feeling very tired,
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
- Feeling the need for alcohol or drugs to cope
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness (more common in men)
- Feeling anxious, restless, or “on the edge” (more common in men)
- Engaging in high-risk activities (more common in men)
- Withdrawing from friends or isolating oneself.
What are other health conditions associated with Seasonal Depression?
Other mental health conditions like Anxiety disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia. Also, those with sleep disorders, nutritional deficiencies, Diabetes. I also see a number of medications that can contribute to SAD.
Why is Telehealth a great option for treating Seasonal Depression or SAD?
Telehealth is easy, convenient, and available from the comfort and privacy of or your own home or office. Many people feel like they can open up easier with telehealth. And in the Winter, when most folks struggle with SAD, it is nice not to have to get out on rainy, dark, and icy roads. My patients love telemedicine.
What kind of testing does Dr. Litov like to do with SAD?
I do a lot of basic blood work to check for underlying health conditions. Nutritional blood work. With SAD specifically, I also like to do hormone testing.