Seasonal Depression Awareness Month

Many people associate the holiday season with bright, twinkling lights and spending time with their families and friends. But that’s not always the reality for everyone. If you’ve noticed lately that you aren’t feeling the holiday spirit, it’s not just you.

December is Seasonal Depression Awareness Month. Each year, millions of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but may not recognize the symptoms or know how to treat the disorder.

To recognize Seasonal Depression Awareness Month, Cameron’s board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Melchor Mercado is sharing his expertise on SAD and advice to those who may be experiencing symptoms.

What is SAD?

According to Dr. Mercado, SAD is a mood disorder that occurs at the same time every year. SAD occurs most often among young adults but is not limited to that specific age group. For many people, SAD typically occurs in the fall and winter months due to the decrease in daylight hours. This disorder is more common in the Northern Hemisphere and in those who have a history of mental health struggles.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Increased sleep (hypersomnia)
  • Low energy
  • Weight gain
  • Depressed mood

Treatment Options

If you are experiencing the above symptoms on a recurring, yearly basis in the late fall and winter, you may be experiencing SAD. Dr. Mercado suggests that if you aren’t already seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, you should set up an appointment with your primary care physician to receive a referral to psychiatry services. A psychiatrist can help you identify specific ways you can personally combat SAD.

Consistent exposure to sunlight can help lessen symptoms of SAD. To supplement sunlight in the winter when days are short, Dr. Mercado recommends purchasing a light therapy device that mimics sunlight and turning it on for 1-2 hours a day. Light therapy lamps are available for purchase at most major retailers both in-store and online.

For severe cases of SAD, Dr. Mercado says you may need to consider moving to a state with plenty of sunshine and less fluctuation in seasonal daylight hours.

Seasonal depression is quite common and if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there’s nothing to be ashamed of! Dr. Mercado encourages everyone to ask for help if you think you might need it. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing and figure out what’s the best option for you.

For more information about Dr. Mercado and the Cameron Psychiatry team, visit cameronmch.com/services/psychiatry.

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