What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
When depression strikes at a certain time of year—when you notice that you’re just not yourself, your energy and motivation are off, and you just feel down—it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
You might have heard of SAD referred to as the “winter blues,” which is a term that rather downplays the potential severity of a disorder that can feel like much more than a case of the blues. However, SAD is commonly associated with the fall and winter months, when gray skies, rain, and colder temperatures become an almost-daily occurrence.
What Causes SAD?
The change of season affects the construction industry—and construction employees—in many ways. For one, the hard work and demands of your job mean that you likely look forward to downtime, when you can kick back and relax or enjoy some leisure time. The season also significantly limits what you can do, leaving you confined mostly to indoor activities. Even if you’re okay with staying in, watching movies, and ordering takeout, weather conditions can really interfere with your ability to go to work.
Although these factors may not necessarily cause SAD, they can certainly make you feel worse—and much more stressed out—if you’re already suffering the impact of SAD symptoms. However, researchers believe the primary cause of the disorder is less exposure to sunlight. It affects some people more than others, causing disruptions in their circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and the production of melatonin. All of these physical and chemical dynamics happening in your body and brain can put you on the fast lane to depression. And, symptoms can last for as long as several months at a time, ranging from mild symptoms—which might feel a lot like “the blues”—to more severe symptoms that can interfere with your daily functioning.
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of SAD:
- Feeling sad or down most of the day, almost every day
- Having very negative thoughts
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Losing interest in activities that you typically enjoy
- Noticing a significant decrease in your energy level
- Changes in your sleeping patterns
- Changes in your appetite or changes in weight
- Becoming easily agitated or irritable Difficulty concentrating or noticing changes in your memory
- Thoughts of wanting to die or of suicide
How can you tell if you’re experiencing SAD versus depression?
The way you know that you’re struggling with SAD rather than with depression is by noticing the timing of the symptoms. With SAD, symptoms start and end at approximately the same time every year. Depression, on the other hand, can come any time of year and may not necessarily follow a specific time pattern.