Seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”) – is it real or fake? I can promise you, it is real. Many don’t believe that it is and that’s why I wanted to write this. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll have more info and be able to understand the condition more.
So What Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder a form of depression associated with the lack of light during the Autumn and Winter months. I tend to think it has something to do with the cold, as well. I have lived with the condition since I was young, and every Winter I get hit with symptoms. Not only is it dark, with the sun setting earlier, but the temperatures drop. Seasonal affective disorder is more prevalent for those in colder climates and are in zones that have Daylight Savings Time.
Surprisingly, SAD affects approximately 5% of adults. I say surprisingly because I feel like this percentage is super low. I’ve been talking to my community and I have noticed that most of them experience symptoms. For those of us that do experience symptoms, we have them 40% of the year. It all matches up with how long our Winter is here in New England.
There are plenty of people out there that do not believe that SAD is real. Many of the non-believers say those that experience symptoms are lazy, don’t want to work and just want sympathy. I can assure you none of this is true! The majority of those that live with SAD are none of these things. They are just normal, every day people trying to get by, but have a chemical imbalance in their brains.
Symptoms can vary but some of the major ones include
- Crying often and without reason
- Unexpected weight gain
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Difficulty completing simple tasks
I have experienced all of these. Crying while watching Reels on Instagram. Wanting to stay home rather than go out to dinner with friends. Definitely not wanting to do something simple, like the dishes. If you’ve experienced these symptoms, that doesn’t mean you have SAD. . .but it could. The only way to know for sure is to seek help from a professional.
What About Those Myths?
Just like anything, rumors fly around and myths are created. In this post, I’ll be sharing five of the most common myths and debunking them.
Myth 1 – Seasonal affective disorder is the same as Winter Blues.
Winter Blues is a short bout of feeling down. It can be treated by making sure you get regular sleep and physical activity. Typically those that experience Winter Blues can bounce back pretty easily. On the other hand, seasonal affective disorder is a form of clinical depression. It can require psychiatric treatment, medication and light therapy. The two are very different.
I used to think I had Winter Blues. After experiencing the same symptoms at the same time of year for multiple years, I realized it was something more. I’ve been to therapy and even bought myself a light to help me get through the darker months.
The biggest difference between Winter Blues and SAD is the length of time one experiences symptoms. Winter Blues can be a few hours to a few days. Seasonal affective disorder is typically a few weeks to a few months.
Myth 2 – Seasonal affective disorder only occurs during the Fall and Winter months.
The key word in this myth is “only”. Yes, the majority of symptoms are experience during the Fall and Winter months, but that’s not only when symptoms are experienced. There’s something called Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. It occurs for less 1% of the population during the Spring and Summer months.
Winter sufferers feel sluggish, sleep more than usual, overeat and often times gain weight. Summer sufferers experience insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss and can be more agitated and more anxious.
The interesting part to me is that those with SAD may actually experience symptoms in the Summer. Reporting these symptoms to a therapist or medical professional may be less likely for a number of reasons. All in all, seasonal affective disorder is not just a Winter condition.
Myth 3 – Seasonal affective disorder only occurs in women.
Again here, I think the key word is “only”. The majority of sufferers are female [60-90%], males can experience the condition too. Due to the decline of hormones in their late 30s, women are more likely to experience some sort of depression. Interestingly enough, that’s why I really started to notice my seasonal affective disorder.
Additionally, women may be reporting symptoms of SAD more than men due to the volume of individuals going to therapy. One reason may be because more women go to therapy than men. Ultimately, SAD does not discriminate against gender, age or background.
Myth 4 – People suffering from seasonal affective disorder are depressed through the year.
In most cases, individuals with SAD can return to “normal” during the warmer months. But then again what is normal? My normal may look very different from your normal. Since we are all individuals, life looks different for each of us. Depression can also look different for each of us.
Saying those suffering from SAD are depressed all year round is too generic of a statement. We might live with depression but that doesn’t mean we are depressed. I think there is a very big difference between being something and living with it. During the Winter months, SAD symptoms are in the forefront and are more noticeable. In the Summer months, symptoms may not be as noticeable despite the chemical imbalance still being present.
Myth 5 – Seasonal affective disorder isn’t a serious condition.
That’s like saying diabetes isn’t a serious condition. Both are serious, one is mental and one is physical. SAD can be downright crippling for some and require constant medical treatment. For others, it’s something tolerable. In certain cases, SAD can hinder the ability to function normally. Things like getting out of bed, bathing and making food to eat can become annoyances.
Moral of the story with this myth is that health is health. Period. Whether it’s a physical condition or a mental condition, if you think it’s serious, then it is. And if you think your experience with SAD is serious enough, speak to your doctor about getting the help you need.