CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – If the recent change from summer to fall has you feeling down, you are not alone.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that is related to changes in season and begins and ends at about the same time every year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Most people’s symptoms start in the fall and will continue into the winter months and typically make people feel moody, but the symptoms often resolve in the springtime.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. Some of the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

If you have SAD in the fall and winter, some more specific symptoms include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

If you have SAD in the spring and summer, some of those symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability

Main Causes

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter onset. This decrease in sunlight might disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

On Sunday, November 5 at 2:00 a.m. local time, our clocks will go back an hour and we will gain an extra hour of sleep, which is part of the twice-annual time change. This change in our sleep schedule is also a main cause of SAD.

How to Prevent

If you take steps early on to manage symptoms, you might be able to prevent them from getting worse. Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if you get diagnosed and treated before symptoms arise.

Some people find it helpful to begin treatment before the symptoms would normally start in the fall or winter and then continue treatment past the time that symptoms would stop. Other people need continuous treatment to help prevent symptoms from returning.

If you feel down for multiple days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your healthcare provider. This is important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.

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