Part one of a multiple part series,
Fall is on the horizon for the state of Louisiana, but in addition to the cool breezes and changing of leaves, the state is also introduced to the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Depression is a serious mental diagnosis, a feeling of persistent sadness that serves to disrupt many facets of an individual’s everyday life.
These disruptions affect the individual on a behavioral and physical level, affecting their sleep schedule and eating habits, along with their sense of concentration and overall energy throughout the day.
Typically this is identified as Clinical or Major depression, according to the Mayo Clinic, and this requires a medical diagnosis by a mental health care professional.
Major depression creates a sense of persistent sadness, as stated prior, but a different form of depression holds sway during the coming of the Fall and Winter months: SAD.
The term SAD was first put forth as a specific syndrome in 1984 by Norman Rosenthal at the National Institute of Mental Health, in which it was described as a depressive episode that formed within the autumn or winter and typically would be resolved by the Summer.
Over time, different forms of SAD were said to include changes into the summer and spring cycles, according to Mental Health Online, although these are considerably less common.
SAD follows the same symptoms as major depression, in that the person is given a feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in their everyday routine, however, the symptoms themselves are subject to the actual changing of the seasons.
Even with the widespread acceptance of SAD as a syndrome, the medical community has been somewhat hesitant to accept the disorder as a diagnosis.
According to an article by MRCPsych researcher Darren Cotterell, the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders has deemed Seasonal Affective Disorder as uncertain, while the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies it under bipolar mood disorder as a recurring depressive episode.
The nature of its formation creates an uncertain and non-consistent level of testing within the medical community, along with initial skepticism based around its changing nature along with the seasons; this ultimately brought into question what would and would not be considered a disorder, as the population often experienced a variety of moods throughout the year.
The nature of this uncertainty has led to a variety of responses on just how SAD forms in individuals.
Three particular factors come into play during discussions, although the most notable among these comes from a disruption in one’s circadian rhythm (or the biological clock).
According to the Mayo Clinic, the reduced level of sunlight that comes with the Fall and Winter seasons could have an adverse effect on a person’s internal clock, which may be the leading factor in why feelings of depression begin to develop.
This is further expanded upon when one takes into account Light Therapy as a leading treatment option by medical professionals, in which the subject is exposed to up to ten times the normal intensity of domestic lighting in order to counteract the reduced sunlight within the day. Although the reduced sunlight levels are not definitively linked with the onset of SAD, Mental Health America has reported that over 85% of individuals have shown improved behavior and reactions to the changing of the seasons.
Of course, medical health professionals may provide their patients with alternative treatments, ranging from counseling to pharmaceutical.
If you have any feelings of depression during this shift into the Fall season, be sure to speak with your medical health professional on possible treatments or diagnoses; preventing SAD from taking hold early on and receiving the necessary help can enable you to enjoy the forthcoming change into the winter calendar.