- Mental Health
A Depression Article for People Who Don't Want to Admit They Have It: SAD
We all can relate to this pug, but we will probably never admit it to ourselves?
What is this depression series about?
This depression article series is for readers who are either unsure if they have depression and for readers who feel pressured into being checked for depression. This series is mainly written for the latter. If you feel pressured into seeking a therapist for depression then this series is for you. If you are in denial then this series is for you. If you want to understand depression, in a way that doesn't resemble college lectures, then this series is for you. Depression is a challenging subject for many people for various reasons. In my experience, it isn't even fun witnessing people who suffer from the worse forms of depression. On the bright side, some of my loved ones, who suffer from depression, taught me how to laugh at the darker moments in life. Because of that, we're going to have a little fun going over depression in this series since it isn't fun coming to terms with it. With that being said, let us begin.
Does it seem that you're always feeling SAD between the fall and winter seasons?
The reason behind feeling moody or "down" during the colder seasons may come from feeling SAD. SAD, in this case, is an acronym for seasonal affective disorder. A friend of mine calls it "Winter Depression" due to people feeling depressed during the winter seasons.
Why does it seem that SAD occurs during the Fall and Winter season?
SAD is another word for seasonal depression. It seems to mostly occur during the Fall and Winter season due to the lack of sunlight during those times. During the Fall and Winter seasons, the weather is dark and cold compared to the spring and summer seasons.
One belief is that Season Affective Disorder results from increased melatonin production in the body. Melatonin is the opposite of melanin. Melanin produces in sunlight, whereas melatonin produces in darkness. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland and acts as a sleeping aid. It causes the person to feel sleepy and sluggish. Because days are shorter and nights are longer in the winter and fall seasons, people might feel more lethargic during the "dark seasons".
Is SAD normal?
What is normal and what is abnormal are both subjective opinions. If we're speaking in terms of statistics then we shall briefly cover the statistics.
On May of 2008, Norman Rosenthal MD mentions, in an article, that six percent of the U.S. population suffers from SAD in its most marked form. This is primarily in northern climates. Rosenthal goes on to say that another 14 percent of adults, in the US population, suffers from a lesser form known as "winter blues". Some southerners may even have the "winter blues" while suffering from the full force of SAD when moving up North. I can testify to this, but my testimony comes later in this article.
Another source says that seasonal affective disorder affects about 10 million Americans. 10 to 20 percent might have a more mild form of it. It went on to say that SAD is four times more common in women than in men. It may seem a lot but only a mere 6 percent require hospitalization. That particular statistical fact was for people who feel better about learning severe forms of depression if it falls under a small bracket. The rest of this information is found in the links below.
This still doesn't answer the question?
I would ask a doctor if you feel that your feelings seem abnormal. It's up to the doctor to decide whether to diagnose you with depression or not. I am no doctor and am not legally allowed to decide if someone's mental state is normal or not.
It's feeling like I am avoiding the question? It isn't up to me to decide whether SAD is generally normal or not.To me, it's normal. However, some of you only seek help if something seems abnormal. Some of us try to find reasons to classify anything as "normal" to prove our reasoning behind not seeking professional help. There are self-care methods that people may use, but please don't use this as an excuse to avoid the doctor's office when you really should seek a doctor. Yes, I'm speaking to you, the one reader who is in denial to the point to where your family and friends are planning an intervention. All jokes aside, I find that it is best to find peace with the fact that our life isn't perfect. That takes exercising and practicing, but finding peace helps me comes to terms with my own diagnoses.
You're not showing any symptoms, but want to know what the symptoms are anyway?
That's why I'm here. I'm totally not manifesting any symptoms, but wanted to see what they were too. There are symptoms that may be associated with "winter depression", not that you have it.
According to this site, https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder, here is a list of "Winter Depression" symptoms.
Feelings of hopelessness or sadness
thoughts of suicide
hypersomnia (it means you oversleep a lot)
A change in appetite. In most cases, you're craving sweet or starchy food
weight gain (probably from eating all of those sweet/starchy foods)
A heavy feeling in legs and arms (probably from eating)
A drop in energy level (By now, you can see how this possibly adds up)
Decreased physical activity
increased sensitivity to social rejection
Avoidance of Social situations
Do I have any personal experiences with SAD?
All I know is that I feel bummed out when the weather is dark and damp. For an example, if the sky gives off a gloomy look, I tend to feel gloomy or look gloomy. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of sunlight. In sunny weather, I feel great. I am more active and more inspired to do physical activities. If it rains and the weather feels "emo" I tend to feel moody. This is most likely due to the fact that I am native to Florida. I was born in the south, but grew up in the north. I had sunny days since I lived in the Jersey Shore. The winter is completely different up there. New Jersey might look like a region in the tundra, but Florida will look the summer time in winter. The difference is drastic. Florida does have cold moments during some weeks in the winter. It usually lasts a week and the temperature doesn't go lower than 30 degree Fahrenheit. It is only enough to bring the "winter blues", but there are no "dark periods" down here like there is in New Jersey.
For me, it was never a serious issue. In the past, I was able to manage it well since I was in a very social atmosphere (mostly because of school). Nowadays, social media keeps me mentally stimulated anytime the weather or climate makes me feel moody. I've never associated my experience with seasonal depression nor seasonal affective disorder. I would just say that "I'm a weather person". It might be another unofficial term for SAD, just like "winter depression" or "winter blues". By all means, I dread the winter. I still do. I use to fear snow. Moved to New Jersey during the Blizzard of 96'. My attitude towards snow wasn't all gay and glee unlike some of my northern friends. However, I eventually grew to love the snow. I believe this is due to corporations using both the weather and season to market Christmas, but that's a another subject for another article. Even when I grew to embrace, I still dread the cold. It is possible I suffered from an acute form of SAD.
Imagine this man, in the picture, is me.
Have I spoken with a doctor about it?
I did not seek medical help nor professional help for it because I thought it was normal. When you're a child, you mostly know if something is abnormal or irregular if you're told that it is. If you're not told that something is irregular or abnormal than you go based on body languages of your peers, or you go based on more subtle clues. Naturally, rain makes me sleep. It just so happens that I was constantly in a healthy environment which enabled me to cope with it and to treat it. To me, depression was always something more severe. I come from a family where some people suffer from depression, and I always saw that their diagnosis was more circumstantial. I didn't feel moody due to neglect nor abusive when it came to the dark and cold depths of winter. It wasn't from PTSD. I just didn't think about it at that time.
Another point I want to make is that I grew up learning how to cope with responses to my surroundings (responses being anxiety or depression) in a more healthy sense. I had dedicated teachers who taught my class beyond our academic curriculum. I had so many resources. That being said, I understand that positive surroundings isn't always the complete answer to the problem. Sometimes we still struggle with our own mind. Knowledge is powerful enough to help us conquer the mind. Applying knowledge will weaponize us to win the battles within our mind to ultimately overcome any forms of disorders or depression. Because I learned from such a young age, I was more equipped to handle any possible symptoms of SAD.
This is most likely why I didn't speak with a doctor about it. Some forms of depression seem natural, normal, or healthy, if you've managed to control it long enough. Please keep in mind, this is either a positive or a negative thing that might reap either positive or negative consequences. A negative side to SAD might feel natural and healthy to where you might believe you don't need help from anybody until you're sweating in a dark lonely room with only yourself and your suicidal thoughts. Please keep that in mind.
On that note, in recent years, I have asked my doctor about the symptoms of depression, if I might have it. It does occur in my family as well as suicidal tendencies. I was given a sheet to fill out. This sheet was "fill-ins" where I filled in the bubbles to describe my feelings, emotions, etc. I didn't ask because I felt I had a serious form of depression. I asked for preventive measures. I like to take precautions and it is possible that I carry emotions that doesn't feel like emotions. People describe emotions one way when you would describe them another way. Some people might say they feel hollow but you might have problems relating because you might describe that emotion as feeling sporadic. When it came to being diagnosed with arthritis, different doctors described certain forms of pain to see if I have it, but they described it in a way in which I didn't understand. I suffer from asthma and I still don't know what doctors mean when asking if I tend to feel "hollow". They've explained what they meant but the explanation never translated into any descriptions that I might not have the words to use to describe what I go through. These things tend to happen. This is probably why some feel that they're not suffering from SAD.
As of now, I am not suffering from depression. If you count feeling moody or depressed during a rain storm, then I would agree I suffer from that form. However, it is only temporary and only under certain circumstances. That being said, I hope by now I am no longer viewed as being hypocritical when recommending seeing a doctor. Now we all know I went to see a doctor myself.
What are the possible causes of SAD?
You don't believe you have depression, it's been established that I don't suffer from depression. Let us continue by discussing the causes of SAD just to further prove we don't have it.
For one, a German friend of mine calls it "Winter Depression" for a reason. She lives in an area that gets dark for a few months. A friend of mine, who lives in Massachusetts, spoke of his family living with depression. A few of them committed suicide. We're talking generations of fathers killing themselves. He lived in an area of Massachusetts where some may describe as "the middle of nowhere". We're talking up the mountains where there are mostly woods. This northern state of US sees a lot of snow. The area can become dark and freezing cold.
It is possible that those men did suffer from SAD. They possibly also suffered from a harsher form of depression. People who live both north and south of the equator are more likely to have "Winter Depression". What my friend's family suffered from is a more severe form. However, it happens in colder climates.
Before, I've mentioned how darkness increase melatonin productivity. Melatonin is a natural agent in our bodies that causes us to feel sleepy and lethargic. People who suffer from insomnia, or other sleeping disorders, might take Melatonin supplements to help them sleep. The coldness and the darkness may play a key role in SAD because of this.
Another possible cause is one's irregular levels of serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, our bodies, that affects our mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, sexual desire, and more. An issue with our serotonin might show our Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiencies might manifest through symptoms of depression.
These are only possible causes. Different doctors have different theories about it. I know people who experienced the possible morbid form of the "winter blues". Other friends of mine are either irritable, suffer from migraines, or have issues with their "biological clock". The biological clock may have something to do with day times being shorter and night times being longer.
All I know is that people who dread winter have a valid reason behind it. People who yearn for winter should tell the people who dread it their secret. For the rest of us, we apparently have nothing to worry about, I sarcastically say. We're only here to read about it without feeling pressured or judged, remember?
Even though you don't suffer from it, you wanted to know if it can be treated?
I'm happy you asked because there are several treatment methods you can choose from...... if you have "winter depression". Once again, we've all agreed that we don't. The short answer to this question is yes. There are medical treatments for it.
Despite the gloomy look, it looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings
This is the long-winded answer that I have summarized into a few paragraphs.
The first option I will discuss is light therapy. With light therapy, you're given a light box which imitates the sunlight without the harmful UV Rays. Imagine a tanning salon without the tanning bed and without the UV radiation. Those can cause skin cancer, but that's another article for another day. If you're already seeing a doctor for bipolar disorder or another issue then I would ask the doctor about Light Therapy before going out to buy a light box.
This second option is so obvious that many of us forget to do this. Having a positive outlook on winter helps prevent SAD or the "winter blues". If you go into something with a positive outlook, you'll come out with a positive outlook. This is how I tolerated working at a call center where customers cuss us out and take all of their frustration, from their personal life, out on us. Doing this will help anybody mentally prepare for a supposed dreadful experience. With that, there is also this option.
Planning activities for the winter while it's still summer might help as well. Securing plans and backup plans for any upcoming event has its benefits. Those 3-month long moments of cold darkness will be less troublesome this way. You might not even need a doctor. You might need a doctor based on your brain chemistry, but it never hurts to try.
Since the lack of sunlight is part of the issue, try using the sunny days that do occur in winter to brighten your mood. Try not to block the windows with shades and blinds. Use as much sunlight as you can. If you can't then you can also try that light box option. Again, ask your doctor about it if you suffer from bipolar disorders or other issues.
We then arrive to this one option we all avoided in the first. This option is why we're reading this article series in the first place, but this is still an option nonetheless. You can see a doctor when you have your SAD episode before it worsens. Sometimes something as small and simple as the winter blues grows into something large and unbearable because we never got the proper help we needed. I too am anxious about seeing the doctor, but that reason will come in another article. When I do see the doctor, I feel better when leaving the office. I feel better due to the relief of getting that out-of-the-way. It is possible to improve your mental state by getting your medical needs treated and out-of-the-way. Sometimes our mental issues become worse all because we avoid doing one little task. It's part of us tricking our minds into believing that something is worse than what it seems.
With all of this information, where do we go from here?
This is completely up to you. You may share this with your friends or family or that loved one who won't stop encouraging us to seek help. Feel free to discuss this in the comments down below. If you've read this far then you might as well vote on what you will do with the information that's given. Depression isn't fun and it isn't fair that some of us feel depressed when the weather turns cold. What is fun is learning about SAD as an online community since it allows the idea that even though we feel alone, we are not alone. In the midst of an episode, we might forget that we're not the only ones who exist. Learning what SAD is and why it happens is one major step towards conquering it.
On that note, I hope you all find new means of enjoying the winter despite the cold. Coldness allows fun activities such as making hot chocolate or wearing that warm-fuzzy winter outfit that's been on sale. Thanks for reading!
Now that we discussed what SAD is, what will we deniers do from here?
For more information, please visit these sites.
- Does the Cold, Dark Weather Make You SAD? | Mercy
Seasonal affective disorders cause mood and sleep disturbances
- Seasonal Affective Disorder - familydoctor.org
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression triggered by the seasons. It is likely related to the loss of sunlight in the fall and winter.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder | Psychology Today
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the "winter blues."
© 2017 Nathaniel Brown