Feeling Sad? Or Feeling S.A.D.?

This time of year is a whirlwind of emotions that send many feeling like they are on a roller coaster. Why does this time of year seem to be the most difficult to get through?

Is it all of the major holidays we celebrate that are close together?
Is it the unsaid societal pressure to spend a lot of money on gifts for family, friends, and associates?
Is it the obligation of feeling like we have to cook and bake beautiful homemade meals and have company and visit others?

Or what about if you have a child or children. What’s up with the pile on of projects and concerts all happening within a seven day period before
schools are out for the Winter Break? I’m thinking this definitely does not help parent's emotional well-being.
And then we are dealing with the feelings of the intensification of the holiday season being over swiftly, and left even feeling let down.
Do our expectations become too high after weeks, maybe even months, of decorating, shopping and wrapping?
And let’s not forget about any children, adolescents, adults, and our senior population dealing with grief, financial instability and/or a lack of social support systems during this time.

Before we know it, we have gone through a short time period dealing with an intense amount of emotions that left us feeling spent, literally and figuratively.
Feeling Sad or Feeling S.A.D.?
Although I have brought up legitimate holiday situations that can trigger sadness and a host of other emotions during this time of year, I want to focus on the other type of sad; seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

But first, what qualifies as a disorder?
A brief explanation is that a disorder is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Disorders are usually defined by a combination of how a person behaves, feels, perceives, or thinks.

When it comes to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), common symptoms to be aware of during the fall and winter seasons are:
Tiredness or having low energy
Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness or excessive time spent sleeping)
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Craving for carbohydrates
Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)
With that said, many would associate S.A.D. with only the Fall and Winter seasons, however, Spring and Summer S.A.D. symptoms do exist. Symptoms of the less frequently known warmer season disorder include:
Poor appetite with associated weight loss, Insomnia (trouble sleeping), Agitation, Restlessness, Anxiety, Episodes of ‘hot headed’ behavior ​(e.g. hostile and aggressive behavior)

What are some Risk Factors that Increase Experiencing S.A.D.?
● Being female. S.A.D. is diagnosed ​four times​ more often in women than men.
● Vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity. Vitamin D insufficiency may be associated with clinically significant depression symptoms.
● If we live far from the equator, S.A.D. is more frequent. ​For example, 1 percent of those who live in Florida and 9 percent of those who live in New England or Alaska suffer from ​S.A.D​.​ Also, living farther away from the equator can affect our biological clock (circadian rhythm) due to the experience of living through four seasons. When we experience a decrease level of sunlight in fall and winter, this may cause winter-onset S.A.D. and may disrupt your body's internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.

● People with a family history of other types of depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to develop S.A.D. than people who do not have a family history of depression.
● Younger adults have a higher risk of S.A.D. than older adults however, S.A.D. has been reported even in children and teens.
● Serotonin levels (a brain chemical neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role once our exposure to sunlight is reduced.
● Melatonin levels can be disrupted and changes the balance of the body's level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
● Having major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
Complications from S.A.D. and When to See a Mental Health Professional
Take signs and symptoms of S.A.D seriously. S.A.D. can get worse and lead to problems if it's not treated. It is normal to have some days when you feel down, but having an awareness of your typical behaviors changing for the worse is really important. If you feel down for days at a time, notice a change in your sleep patterns that is negatively impacting your life, have a change in your appetite, have a desire to drink alcohol for comfort, struggling with finding motivation, or are starting to feel hopeless, it’s time to see a licensed mental health provider.

Other signs or symptoms to be aware of include:
● Social withdrawal
● School or work problems
● Substance abuse
● Other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders
● Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Treatments and Therapies:
There are five major types of treatment for S.A.D. that may be used alone or in combination. Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if S.A.D. is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get worse.
● Medication ● Psychotherapy
● Light therapy ● Vitamin D
● Self-care/Physical Exercise

Request an Appointment at ​Bergen County Grief Counseling, click https://www.bergencountygriefcounseling.com/index.php/contacts to schedule an appointment. If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, you can request an appointment at Bergen County Grief Counseling ​to meet with a licensed mental health provider.

Although BCGC niche is ‘grief therapy’, common symptoms of grief are sadness, anxiety, and depression amongst other emotions. The licensed social workers at BCGC are clinically trained to assess, treat, and make referrals for mental illness, emotional and other behavioral disturbances. At BCGC, we are able to support and treat clients with other concerns outside of grief and providing optimal psychosocial care is one of our main goals to our clients. ​ ​We encourage you to check out BCGC website, www.bergencountygriefcounseling.com​ ​for additional information to get a better feel of who we are. Please do not hesitate to ​call us at 201.818.9399 to set up an appointment.