William Shakespeare once said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This common reference from Romeo and Juliet shows that no matter what word we choose to label something, that something is just as impactful and real as if one were to call it by a different name. This fact is evident even in discussing one’s mental health. Whether it is called Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSAD), Winter Depression, or even the Winter Blues, the symptoms are the same and just as real for everyday sufferers.
SAD and SSAD have a lot of similarities with their umbrella diagnosis, Major Depressive Disorder, in the fact that sufferers experience an increase in helplessness, worthlessness, lack of interest in once pleasurable activities, isolation, difficulty sleeping, issues with concentration and decision making, lack of energy or motivation, decreased sex drive and increased irritability. However, individuals who experience symptoms specific with SAD and SSAD also endorse experiencing oversleeping or difficulty waking up, unexplainable nausea and irregular eating patterns such as craving carbohydrates.
Everyone experiences some level of depression in their lifetime, and the sadness can come and be easily managed. However, for people dealing with Major Depressive Disorders, specifically SAD and SSAD, their sadness does not simply go away with watching a funny TV show or taking a nap. With one of the major triggers to this disorder being the change in amount of daytime light, an element no person can directly control, these individuals may feel like the battle is almost never-ending and, at times, can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness.
Research has shown that there are many factors that can cause SAD; not just reduction of sunlight, but also lowered activity levels, melatonin secretion, and a delay in the circadian rhythm. And it can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s life including decreased productivity at work, interpersonal conflicts with friends, lowered connection with family and even increases in negative coping skills.
It is reported that SAD and SSAD affects between 6.1-14.3% of the U.S. population, and between 6-35% of sufferers require hospitalization due to an increase in suicidal ideation; this statistic goes to show how prevalent and serious this disorder can be for a person.
With the proper help and treatment, the team at Montana Psychiatry & Brain Health Center can help you learn how to manage the effects that this disorder causes. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation at our office in Billings.