Employee Assistance Program (EAP)/Professional Standards Committee
Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.
In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD or summer depression and is less common.
Who develops SAD?
Millions of American adults may suffer from SAD, although many may not know they have the condition. SAD occurs much more often in women than in men, and it is more common in those living farther north, where there are shorter daylight hours in the winter. For example, people living in Alaska or New England may be more likely to develop SAD than people living in Florida. In most cases, SAD begins in young adulthood. SAD is more common in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. SAD sometimes runs in families.
How is SAD treated?
Treatments are available that can help many people with SAD. They fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:
- Light therapy
- Antidepressant medications
- Vitamin D
Talk to your health care provider about which treatment, or combination of treatments, is best for you. If you would like to talk more about SAD or obtain help with finding a treatment referral, contact our AFA EAP Committee. Its confidential and always non-judgmental. You can find the contact information for your local AFA EAP Committee at afaalaska.org/eap. You can also call AFA Alaska EAP at (949) 470-0493.