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As the holidays quickly approach, don’t ignore the signs of SAD

The last quarter of the year usually goes like this: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Never mind the days in between, adults typically look forward to the holidays due to time off work. Along with time off work, many adults are faced with stress, anxiety, and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now classified as a type of recurring major depression disorder with a seasonal pattern. The onset of SAD can begin in the fall, but typically occurs during the winter months when the days are shorter and there is less sunlight.



The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines specific criteria, in which depression with a seasonal pattern includes having depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year for at least two years and there must be more seasons of depression than seasons without depression over a lifetime (Melrose, 2015). Additionally, symptoms subside during other seasons.


The American Psychiatric Association highlights several mild to severe symptoms of SAD similar to major depression to include:


· Feeling of sadness or depressed mood

· Marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

· Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates

· Change in sleep, usually sleeping too much

· Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours

· Increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech

· Feeling worthless or guilty

· Trouble concentrating or making decisions

· Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide


Symptoms of depression and/or SAD often lead to substance use in order to self-medicate. The development of a substance use disorder (SUD) can impact quality of life at work and home. Research links depression such as SAD and alcoholism, which suggests that environmental and social patterns contribute to symptoms and behaviors.


If this is you, you should call me for an initial consult :-)

Awareness of the signs and symptoms of SAD or a SUD in yourself or loved ones should warrant contact with a licensed professional.


Have you ever felt depressed or sadness during the winter months or holidays? How did you cope?


Deauna A. Froneberger is a licensed professional in North Carolina and has experience treating individuals with co-occurring disorders such as depression and substance use disorders.


References:

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression Research and Treatment,2015, 1-6. doi:10.1155/2015/178564


Seasonal Affective Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder


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