Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Those of us who live in Portland have probably heard about and experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you have SAD you'll notice that your mood dips during the fall and winter months and you become seasonally depressed. In Portland seasonal depression may last longer because it doesn't typically get sunny until late June or July. This means that SAD could follow you into the spring months as well.
Symptoms of SAD
People who suffer from SAD typically experience mild to moderate symptoms. In some cases the symptoms can become severe. The characteristics and symptoms of SAD are:
- daytime fatigue
- weight gain
- decreased sexual desire or interest
- suicidal thoughts
- lack of interest in activities
- social avoidance and withdrawal
The symptoms are similar to those of a low grade depression. You may wish to keep track of when you usually become depressed each year. If you are new to Portland and you are moving from a sunnier climate, it may take you a year to adjust to the cloudy and rainy Portland weather.
A seasonal mood disorder doesn't only occur in the winter months. In about 10% of SAD cases, feelings of depression and sadness occur in the summer months instead of the winter months. When it occurs in the summer months it is known as Reverse SAD. It may be in response to humidity and high heat. The depression tends to look a bit different with reverse SAD. Symptoms include:
- decreased appetite
- weight loss
If you are suffering from reverse SAD you may find relief in taking trips to cooler climates during the hot Portland summer months. It's typically not enough to just sit in an air-conditioned room. Learn more about summer SAD.
Treatment for SAD
A popular treatment for winter SAD is light therapy. If your symptoms are mild to moderate and don't really interfere with your daily life, light therapy could be a good option. You should check out the Center for Environmental Therapeutics for information on a daylight simulator. Treatment can be as simple as turning on more lamps in your house and taking trips more often to hotter and sunnier climates. The desert isn't too far away from Portland, and a trip to Hawaii in February can be pretty inexpensive at times.
If your symptoms are moderate to severe, it is a good idea to check in with a professional therapist. During your therapy session we could figure out if there is anything else going on, and discuss many different coping techniques and tools that will help treat the depression and agitation.