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Do You Have SAD Disorder?

Winter Blues are not an old wives tale. The medical term for this condition is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and health officials are concerned that incidences and the intensity of it will likely be stronger this year.

“If you get the sensation that you feel different in the winter, it’s not your imagination. We live indoors, where there is less light, and that magnifies the winter signal.” 

Paul Desan, MD, PhD, director of the Psychiatric Consultation Service at Yale New Haven Hospital

SAD is a form of depression people begin to feel in late fall or early winter. The worst months are January and February, with the depression letting up in spring or summer. Fewer hours of daylight and less sunlight effect our biological internal clock, which can create a biochemical imbalance in the brain.

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Moods can be further impacted by reduced serotonin (also due to low sunlight), a necessary neurotransmitter that can cause depression when lacking.

Psychiatry.org identifies potential symptoms of SAD:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss  of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

The COVID Pandemic and SAD

If you are currently in lockdown, quarantine or self-isolating, you can imagine how vulnerable you are to feeling Seasonal Affective Disorder. Social withdrawal is one of the most common signs of SAD. Dayry Hulkow, primary therapist at Vista Pines Health, a Delphi Behavioral Health Group, says that social distancing may create increased risk of SAD this year.

It’s a dangerous combination of circumstances: taking measures to avoid COVID-19, perhaps having loved ones suffering or even passing during this pandemic, loss of income and/or being forced to socially isolate during the peak period for spikes in SAD. Now more than ever we must take measures to care for our mental health.

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There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”

The Prophet (ﷺ), Sahih al-Bukhari

Measures to Reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder

Boost your immune system – This is something people who regularly experience SAD do in advance of late Fall. You can still do so right now by taking immune boosting supplements.

Increase Vitamin D – Due to reduced sunlight, Vitamin D supplements are encouraged to replace your lack. Sitting in the sun whenever you can also feels good.

Light therapy – The use of a light therapy box that emits bright light mimicking the sun, yet without ultraviolet rays, is comforting to many people.

Keep in Touch – Again, social isolation is a precursor and sign of SAD. Push yourself to stay in touch with loved ones.

Get Professional Help – If you are feeling the effects of depression this spring, please talk to a mental health or medical professional. Look at the current circumstances of the world – there is no shame in feeling adversely effected.