When feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for months, it may be a sign that you are suffering from clinical depression, but seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be confused for depression as well. Being able to identify the differences between depression and seasonal affective disorder will help you determine which, if any, of these disorders you are suffering from.
Light Can Help Seasonal Affective Disorder
Research into seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression, is ongoing, but researchers have found that exposure to light can help individuals who suffer from this disorder. Places that receive less light such as Alaska have been shown to have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder.
If you are experiencing symptoms, planning a trip somewhere sunny may help you get out of the rut. Alternatively, you can purchase a lamp that emits full-spectrum light that mimics the sun’s rays, which has also been shown to alleviate some of the symptoms of SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Is Temporary
Depression will continue if users do not seek treatment, but seasonal affective disorder is a problem that people experience temporarily. While symptoms can be severe and disrupt an individual’s life, seasonal affective disorder typically affects a person during a particular time of year and passes when the next season begins.
You May Feel Tired but Not Depressed
Seasonal affective disorder affects everyone differently. Some patients experience symptoms that closely mimic clinical depression, but others may feel tired and have lower energy levels than usual without experiencing other symptoms of depression. The lack of energy caused by seasonal affective disorder may affect an individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities.
You May Experience Increased Irritability
One of the most prominent symptoms of seasonal affective disorder is irritability or oversensitivity. You may not associate your changes in mood with seasonal affective disorder, but if it is winter and you find yourself more irritable than normal and are having trouble getting along with people, it may be because of this disorder. Depression and seasonal affective disorder both cause mood changes, but seasonal affective disorder may cause you to lash out at others around you.
Depression Is Persistent
Seasonal affective disorder may affect users for days at a time, but the symptoms of depression will continue for months and years on end unless an individual seeks treatment. You may not need to seek therapy for SAD, but if depression-like symptoms continue for more than a few weeks, it is time to consider seeing a doctor. Talking with a doctor about depression will help you manage your symptoms, and medication may also be available to reduce symptoms.