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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): 9 Symptoms and Causes

Is there a stark contrast between a person’s emotional state in summer versus winter? Why do individuals dwelling together, whether family, roommates, or colleagues, exhibit diverse mindsets regardless of seasonal changes, despite a shared environment?

Where does the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)- Causes and Symptoms stand?

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Image Above- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As per NIH, it is a different kind of depression and depends on the individual. It is SAD if there is a substantial change in your mood, behavior, and internal feelings during the season change.

We delve into typical symptoms you experience, followed by the causes.

9 Symptoms of Seasonal Depressive Disorder

Sadness

  • Pervasive sadness: A person with SAD may experience a deep and persistent sadness that permeates all aspects of their life. They may feel down, hopeless, and empty.
  • Tearfulness: Sadness may manifest in tears, crying spells, and a heightened sensitivity to emotional triggers.

Hopelessness

  • Belief in futility: A person with SAD may develop a strong belief that things will never get better, that their situation is hopeless, and that there is no point in trying.
  • Negative self-outlook: They may have a negative self-image, viewing themselves as worthless, insignificant, and incapable of overcoming challenges.

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Image Above- Feeling Hopeleeness in SAD

Worthlessness

  • Self-deprecating thoughts: A person with SAD may engage in negative self-talk, constantly putting themselves down and criticizing their abilities and worth.
  • Feelings of inadequacy: They may feel inferior to others, believing they don’t measure up and that their accomplishments are insignificant.

Guilt

  • Excessive self-blame: A person with SAD may take excessive responsibility for their misfortunes and the unhappiness of others, even when it’s not warranted.
  • The burden of guilt: They may carry a heavy load of guilt, feeling like they are a burden to those around them and don’t deserve happiness.

Anger

  • Irritability: A person with SAD may experience increased irritability, quickly becoming frustrated and annoyed by minor inconveniences.
  • Unexplained rage: In some cases, anger may manifest in outbursts of outrage directed at themselves or others, often stemming from helplessness and frustration.

Isolation

  • Social withdrawal: A person with SAD may withdraw from social interactions and activities, feeling disconnected from friends, family, and loved ones.
  • Preference for solitude: They may prefer to isolate themselves, avoiding social situations and feeling more comfortable alone.

Fatigue

  • Lack of energy: A person with SAD may experience persistent fatigue, feel drained, and lack the motivation to engage in everyday activities.
  • Difficulty carrying out tasks: Even simple tasks may seem overwhelming, requiring significant effort and leaving them feeling exhausted.

Difficulty concentrating

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Image Above- Difficulty in Concentrating in SAD

  • Trouble focusing: A person with SAD may need help to concentrate on tasks, conversations, or thoughts, leading to forgetfulness and a sense of being overwhelmed.
  • Mental fog: They may experience a feeling of mental fog, making it challenging to think, make decisions, and process information.

Changes in appetite and sleep

  • Loss of appetite: A person with SAD may experience a decreased appetite, leading to weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Oversleeping: In contrast, they may also experience excessive sleepiness, oversleeping as a way to escape from their negative emotions.
  • Working online across different time zones in the world disrupts the sleeping schedule. Your life routine is compromised.

These emotional states can vary in intensity and duration, and each person’s experience of SAD is unique. However, understanding these common feelings can help you better understand and support someone who is struggling with depression.

Acute depression can be threatening. Where do you set your boundary between SAD and continuing depression? 

Disclaimer! Talk to physicians and Medical practitioners about your symptoms and follow the advice.

Seasonal affective disorder* is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression, or winter depression. In the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this disorder is identified as a type of depression – Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern.

Causes of Depression:

Biological factors

  • Genetics: Research suggests that there is a genetic predisposition to depression. People who have family members with depression are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
  • Brain chemistry: Depression is thought to be related to imbalances in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help brain cells communicate with each other. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are three neurotransmitters that are particularly important in mood regulation.

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 Image Above-Brain Chemistry and SAD Connection

 

  • Hormonal imbalances: Changes in hormone levels, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can also trigger depression. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, can affect hormone levels and increase the risk of depression.

Psychological factors

  • Negative thought patterns: People with depression often have negative thoughts about themselves, the world, and the future. These negative thoughts can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.
  • Rumination: Rumination is the tendency to dwell on negative thoughts and experiences. Meditating people may find themselves replaying past mistakes or worrying about future problems. This constant negative thinking can worsen depression symptoms.
  • Catastrophizing: Catastrophizing is the tendency to assume the worst will happen. People who catastrophize may imagine the worst possible outcomes to any situation, even if those outcomes are unlikely. This can lead to excessive anxiety and fear, which can contribute to depression.
  • Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem is the belief that one is not good enough or worthy of love and respect. People with low self-esteem may be more likely to blister themselves and blame themselves for their problems. This can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation, which can worsen depression symptoms.
  • Lack of control: Feeling like one does not have control over one’s life can contribute to depression. This can be due to unemployment, financial problems, or an unhealthy environment. Feeling powerless can lead to feelings of hopelessness and resignation, which can worsen depression symptoms.

Social factors

  • Stressful life events: Stressful life events, such as job loss, the death of a loved one, or relationship problems, can trigger depression. These events can be overwhelming and challenging to cope with, and they can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety.
  • Social isolation: Social isolation is the lack of social connections and support. Socially isolated people may feel lonely, alone, and disconnected from others. This lack of connection can worsen depression symptoms.
  • Lack of social support: Social support is the emotional and practical help people receive from others. People with strong social support networks are more likely to cope with stress and adversity effectively. However, people who lack social support may feel unsupported and alone, which can worsen depression symptoms.

Environmental factors

  • Poverty: Poverty can lead to several stressors, such as food insecurity, housing insecurity, and lack of access to healthcare. These stressors can increase the risk of depression.

Takeaway and what is next?

Not sleeping well and thinking about why you are inadequate, why people think low of you, why you don’t like people, and why you love to stay isolated. Why are you a weirdo?

Recognizing the symptoms and the causes solves a significant part of the problem.

Proactively, You prepare to be the shock absorber.

You own your mind and body. Find comfort and embrace happiness by connecting those two. Discern the environmental impact and subtract it from life.

Before that, let’s pick up some comfy food from the kitchen to greet the SAS and winter blues—our next post.

Anusuya Choudhury

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