The holidays have already begun, and for many that represents a time of happiness. Friends and family are coming to town. People are giving and receiving gifts. Some people get bonuses at work, while others go on amazing vacations that can be extremely enjoyable while making memories that last for the rest of the year.
But some people struggle with a disorder that makes the holiday time a time of severe sadness and depression. This condition is known as "seasonal affective disorder," or "SAD." It can technically occur over any time of the year, but most commonly it is when a person experiences severe sadness or depression during the wintertime, while becoming more energetic and happier during summer.
The Basics of SAD
Many people attribute that sadness to their feelings about the weather, and in a way they're not wrong. But it's not as simple as wishing there was more sun. Those with seasonal affective disorder experience very real depression – clinical depression – during the winter months.
The cause of this is unknown. There is believed to be a biological component, where something about the sun affects a person's circadian rhythms, or possibly their production of some type of hormone that requires sunlight or outdoor activity. It's also possible for a person's experiences during winter to contribute to the development of that depression.
Those with SAD often show signs of:
• Mood Disorders – During the depression, they may be more irritable or negative.
• Loss of Interest in Activities
• More Sleep than Necessary
• Weight Gain
• Drowsiness During the Day
Any of the signs of depression may occur when someone has SAD, but to qualify for SAD, they have to go away when the season ends.
What Does This Mean For You?
For those living with SAD, this means that the holiday season is one of intense pressure. Remember that depression isn't just a feeling or an emotion. Depression, much like anxiety and other mental health conditions, bleeds into your thoughts. It means that when the holidays come, you'll have negative thoughts that seem completely justified, but it is really your depression talking.
• "I never have a good time at these holiday parties."
• "My parents don't really want me to come to dinner."
• "I think I'll just stay in this year."
Most people don't realize that mental health disorders affect thoughts, but they do, and those with seasonal blues often have thoughts that don't feel unwarranted, but are geared towards negative emotions.
Get Help This Holiday Season
If you feel like you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder, getting help soon is very important. SAD has a conditioning component. If your disorder causes you to feel that the holidays will be sad or depressing, and then you live your life in a way that validates your feeling, it's going to be harder to get help later.
Many researchers have been looking at light therapy as a way of reducing seasonal affective disorder with some success. By sitting in the presence of a bright light several times during the day, it mimics sitting near a sun and should excite your brain enough to stave off the disorder.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has also made some fantastic strides in curing all forms of depression, including seasonal affective disorder. CBT, however, is a long-term procedure, so it's something you need to start now in order to truly find relief.
Finally, spending time active and outside every day, no matter how much you feel like you don't want to or it won't help, is very important. Staying active, seeing family, and doing whatever it takes to enjoy yourself despite the disorder can actually have a positive effect on your long term outlook with SAD.
Seasonal affective disorder is a very real disease, and affects millions of people every year. The sooner you control it, the more you'll have an excellent holiday season.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera had anxiety and depression for years. He now writes anxiety information at www.calmclinic.com