Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder diagnosed more and more often every year. According to familydoctor.org, around 6 percent of Americans are already diagnosed, while around 20 percent suffer from a milder form and are not diagnosed.
It is especially important to raise awareness for SAD as the months get colder and the days get shorter. The most common form of SAD is winter SAD; the addition of holiday stress and the decrease in sunlight causes many changes in body function. The lack of light tricks the body’s biological clock, serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) levels and melatonin (a brain chemical that controls sleep) levels, causing severe depression.
Contrastingly, there is also a form of summer SAD. Extreme sunlight and the lack of a structured daily routine can cause irritability, insomnia, and severe anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, there are many treatments for both forms of SAD. Light lamp and dark room therapy can help to balance bodily functions, as well as various medications. A change in diet is also helpful, such as lowering sugar intake. Sugar withdrawal can often feel like a panic attack, and too much fluctuation in sugar amounts can cause extreme highs and lows.
It is important to be mindful of those that aren’t so happy for the holidays, or are not excited for school to let out. Not being able to enjoy the parts of the year that are usually the happiest, especially when put under pressure to be pleasant as to not ruin other people’s holidays, is immensely difficult. Empathy is one of the best ways to support loved ones through mental illness. Never shame someone for not being happy; anyone can develop a mental illness and there is no shame in being diagnosed.