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Dark Weather Can Cause Dark Thoughts | Aerin Flaharty

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “Seasonal Depression”, as many know, affects millions of people around the world. Seasonal depression occurs when the days get shorter and darker, causing the thoughts of people we know and love to turn dark too.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that tends to cycle over the course of the colder months. The symptoms can appear as early as the warmer months of fall, all the way into the beginning of winter. According to the Cleveland Clinic, winter seasonal depression affects approximately half a million U.S citizens. Given the circumstances this year, it is extremely important to be a listener for those in need, and to offer friendship to those who need it most.

The symptoms of seasonal depression are worse for those who live in areas that are consistently dark and gloomy. For example, an individual who lives in Seattle has to deal with the dark and rainy climate for the majority of the year and would probably have more extreme symptoms than one who lives in sunny Southern California, where locals tend to wonder if rain even exists. When daylight savings hits, and the presence of the sun decreases, humans have to learn how to adapt to a decreased amount of vitamin D. When a lack of vitamin D occurs, so do levels of serotonin; a neurotransmitter that affects one’s mood. A study from the University of Georgia concludes that those who have lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to experience seasonal depression. The American Family Physician claims Seasonal Affective Disorder is four times more common in women, than men. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with chronic depression than men. Those who live far away from the equator have a higher chance of having seasonal depression as well.

The Mayo Clinic provides a list of symptoms of seasonal depression that include low energy, difficulty concentrating, being easily agitated, lack of sleep, lost interest in hobbies, etc. With this said, it becomes extremely important to show those around us that we care as the fall and winter seasons start to bring out these symptoms. The slow feeling of winter and the bitter cold climates in some areas have oftentimes caused people to have feelings of sadness and darkness, just like the months they are experiencing. It is easier to feel more tired in November all the way to February, because of how quickly the sun sets. Although it may feel like 7pm, in reality, it could really be 4:45. Our bodies are not perfectly trained to adapt to these changes quickly. While some can overcome the dark weather, others cannot.

The treatments doctors offer include light therapy, psychotherapy, various forms of self-care, and medication. The medications that treat this type of depression include antidepressants as well as SSRI’s. SSRI’s ease the symptoms of depressive moods and forms of anxiety. However, sometimes the most important treatment one suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) can receive is simply just a small, kind gesture so they can know that there is someone out there who cares about them.

So this fall and winter season, make sure you are staying connected and offer acts of kindness whenever possible. You never know what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes, so staying kind and offering help to those in need could brighten people’s day even if the weather can’t.

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