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Does the time of year affect how you feel? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of year—usually winter. However, SAD can affect people in the opposite pattern causing symptoms that begin in the spring or summer. When the weather is nice, you expect to be energized and happy, and other people may expect this of you too. If you instead are feeling drained, sluggish, or like you’ve hit a wall, SAD may be to blame.

SAD affects about 4 to 6 percent of the US population. Of those with SAD, about 10 percent experience symptoms in the summer. Changes during the summer months can trigger these issues. Disruptions to your normal schedule, increased heat and humidity, body image problems, and financial worries can lead to summer SAD.

Symptoms often start out mild and become more serious as a season continues. Many of the symptoms are similar to depression and can include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability

Both women and men can experience SAD. However, the stigma and misconceptions surrounding depression can sometimes negatively impact men more than women. Many men hesitate to acknowledge or seek help for their depression and may resist openly discussing how they are feeling. Sometimes men will use alcohol or drugs to mask their depression, which, over time, can worsen symptoms. Substance use can also make the depression more difficult for loved ones to recognize.

The good news is depression and SAD are treatable and most men can recover. In fact, more than 80 percent of people with a depressive illness improve with appropriate treatment.

If you think you may be struggling with SAD, help is available. Screening for Mental Health offers anonymous online screenings. The self-assessments are quick and discreet and provide the opportunity to determine if what you are feeling is normal, or possibly something more serious like SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a sign of weakness and is never a normal part of life. Seeking help for this treatable illness takes strength and support, but recovery is possible.