Living in the Midwest, many people often discuss having some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The weather is used as a conversation starter and a common topic to fill awkward social interactions. The weather’s impact on moods is discussed heavily during the fall and winter months. It’s common to hear statements like:
- The weather is so depressing.
- It looks gross outside. I just want to stay in bed.
- The rain makes me want to cuddle up on the couch and relax.
- Wait until the weather’s better. I’ll be easier to deal with.
- I’ll be so happy once summer is here.
What happens when summer comes, but you’re feeling as though you want to stay inside?
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is depression with a seasonal pattern. Usually, SAD begins in the fall or winter with symptoms beginning to lessen or go away in the spring. SAD can also occur in the summer months, but the odds of that happening are less likely than in the winter.
To be diagnosed, the pattern of depressive symptoms usually needs to have occurred over two consecutive years. Meaning in the fall/winter season, depressive symptoms were noticed, then symptoms lessened each year in the spring/summer season. If these depressive episodes can be tied to a life stressor such as loss of job each fall/ winter, memory of a trauma that occurred during that time of year and/or school, it technically does not meet criteria for SAD.
Signs of depression
- Loss of energy
- Depressed mood
- Loss of appetite/ overeating
- Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
- Sleep difficulties
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Having thoughts of suicide or death
If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms that are listed above; especially having thoughts of suicide or death it’s likely to be more than just the weather impacting your mood. Experiencing any five of these symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, over two consecutive weeks means there’s a need to seek help.
If you or someone you know is in need of immediate help, please call Pine Rest’s 24/7 hotline at 800.678.5500 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255).
What does help look like?
Treatments for depressive symptoms depend on the severity of symptoms. The range of treatments include medications, talk therapy, behavior modification, brain stimulation therapies and alternative therapies. To find out which options are best suited for you, I recommend seeking out help from your primary care physician or a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or licensed therapist.
Elizza LeJeune, LMSW, is a fully licensed clinician social worker at the Pine Rest Northwest Clinic. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Central Michigan University and her Master’s in Social Work with a Certificate in Disaster Mental Health from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her areas of interest include working with children, adolescents and adults struggling with depression, anxiety and spiritual issues as well as family, child and women’s issues.