Each winter, many people feel like they’re in a funk and attribute their blues to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. While it’s true that SAD is a form of depression associated with late autumn and winter that affects an estimated 1 in every 30 people in the U.S., many people are misinformed about what symptoms may indicate seasonal affective disorder. Here’s a rundown of what SAD is–and what it isn’t.

Frequent symptoms of SAD include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor sleep
  • Decreased activity level
  • Depression or crying spells
  • Body aches
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Overeating and associated weight gain

Since there aren’t any tests to conclusively diagnose seasonal affective disorder, these symptoms are difficult to conclusively point towards SAD, leading to many common myths surrounding SAD.

For example, not everyone experiencing a lack of energy or other negative changes during a change in seasons has SAD; they may simply be suffering from the winter blues, which can easily be erased with increased physical activity. Or, they may associate the autumn and winter seasons with a traumatic event, which could lead to depression or trouble concentrating.

Another common myth is that people who think they’re suffering from SAD could have other depressive conditions, such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder. But actually, SAD means that you only experience depression seasonally, and in order to be diagnosed with SAD, you must have had depressive episodes during the last two consecutive winters; also, your seasonal depressive episodes must outnumber the non-depressive seasons over your lifetime.

While many people are under the impression that SAD only occurs in the winter, there is a less common variety of SAD that occurs in the summer. For reasons that aren’t fully understood, this type of SAD is associated with episodes of mania and extreme violence, and it may be a possible cause for the increase in suicides that typically coincides with spring’s arrival.

Finally, some people believe that SAD doesn’t really exist, claiming that it’s a natural human trait to get sad during the winter. While it’s true that true cases of SAD are a bit rare and hard to diagnose, SAD is a serious depressive condition that many associations and medical professionals recognize as a legitimate mental disorder. And unfortunately, many people who may suffer from SAD don’t want the social stigma of having a “fake” disease, which can lead to people with SAD refusing to speak to professionals or seek treatment.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from SAD, treatments such as phototherapy or therapy can make a difference. Please seek help today.

Symptoms and Myths of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

(Infographic courtesy Yellowbrick)

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This article is featured on behalf of Matt Zajechowski.
Matt Zajechowski is an outreach Manager for Digital Third Coast. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.