With the weather getting colder, the sun setting earlier and the holidays approaching, many people begin not to feel quite like themselves. At times, these mood changes can begin and end with a the seasons, affecting the way a person thinks, sleeps or even functions on a day-to-day basis. Serotonin levels drop leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

So just what exactly do we know about SAD?

Well according to NIH, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD or summer depression and is less common.

Although SAD can affect anyone, it has been proven to wreak havoc among African-American people and African people. Individuals of African descent have a higher risk of developing SAD due to the melanin of the skin. 

“African-Americans have a higher rate of Vitamin D deficiency, so the lack of sunshine on our melanin skin can literally impact our mood,” psychotherapist Farah Harris told Izzy & Liv. “However, due to the increase of mental health stigma in the Black community and the unhealthy mantra, that Black women need to be strong and magical, many Black women can be impacted by SAD and resign to keep their experience to themselves.”

Students from African who have enrolled in schools across the United States are some of the highest sufferers of SAD, According to experts. Many African students experience what is known as summer-type seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

A study findings research was conducted by Charles Agumadu, M.D., an extern from Nigeria and Courtney Thrower, a psychology student, which resulted in 19 percent of the students describing seasonal changes and 15 percent describing what is believed to be syndromal symptoms or milder subsyndromal symptoms associated with winter seasonal affective disorder.

African-Americans are recommended to up their doses of vitamin D.

Some of the indicative symptoms of SAD are:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having low energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

For winter-pattern SAD, additional specific symptoms may include:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)

Specific symptoms for summer-pattern SAD may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite, leading to weight loss
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior

How can we aid our SAD:

Those who are experiencing more temporary holiday-related symptoms, experts suggests: 

  • Eat healthy and balanced meals.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. 
  • Engage in healthy activities that are calming and soothing. 
  • Set realistic goals and expectations for the holiday season.
  • Keep track of holiday spending and stay within a budget.
  • Accept and make peace with what can and cannot be accomplished during this time. 
  • Limit drinking of alcoholic beverages and other forms of consumption that might enhance sadness and loneliness. 
  • If you’re feeling lonely, volunteer to help others who are less fortunate.
  • Try not to dwell on comparisons between the past and present.
  • Live and enjoy the present moment.
  • Look to the future with optimism.
  • If your stress is affecting your ability to follow a day’s normal schedule, speak with a mental health professional.

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