Seasonal Affective Disorder: 5 Common Myths

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You have likely heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, especially if you live in areas with decreased daylight hours during the fall and winter months. Even if you have heard about it, it can be confusing to know what’s true and what is simply an “I heard that it was …..”

Here are 5 common SAD myths:

SAD is the same as Winter Blues

While SAD and the Winter Blues may be two terms that are used interchangeable (and arguably do have some similarities), they are not the same.  Winter Blues typically occur only during a short part of the year and can be significantly improved with some changes to your lifestyle (like getting more exercise and using light therapy).  

SAD is a form of clinical depression.  It typically occurs during the fall and winter months, but can occur all year.  Treatment for this may include medication, psychologist, and light therapy. Diagnosis and treatment for this condition should always be referred to a licensed healthcare professional.

SAD only occurs in the winter

The majority of SAD sufferers experience the condition in the fall and winter, but approximately 1/10 also have symptoms in the spring and summer.

Fall/Winter SAD is characterized by hypersomnia and increased appetite (especially carbohydrates).

Spring/Summer SAD displays typical depressive symptoms including insomnia and loss of appetite.

SAD is unique to women

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Women comprise anywhere from 60-90% of those suffering from SAD (depending on the study referenced).  The condition can develop at any age, but those over the age of 30 are more susceptible as a result of hormonal changes.  

Men experience this condition less frequently, but they are also susceptible.

SAD isn’t a real or serious condition

SAD is classified by the DSM as a recurrent, seasonal pattern of depressive episodes.  It is a serious condition requiring a clinical diagnosis and can severely hinder one’s quality of life and ability to perform normal activities.  

SAD isn’t treatable

SAD is absolutely treatable.  It should be diagnosed by a licensed professional with a corresponding plan for treatment, but there are numerous treatments outside of traditional medication that can help! 

To sum it all up ...

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a difficult, clinical condition, but one that can be treated.  If you feel "off" in the fall and winter months, seeing a licensed professional will help you determine if you are suffering from the Winter Blues or from SAD. The good (great, actually) is that there are plenty of ways to treat both conditions. 

Woman using verilux happylight in the bathroom

If you are interested in how others have managed these conditions, check out How Kathryn Won Against SADHow Morgan Beat the Winter Blues, or Kate's Severe Case of the Winter Blues






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