It can be difficult to know if the symptoms you are experiencing are from SAD or from another source. There can be many events that trigger symptoms and patterns that are similar to a seasonal affective disorder.
Your job isn’t to determine whether or not you’re struggling with SAD. That’s something for your doctor. It is up to you to determine if what you’re feeling is more than just the blues. Here are the signs that should prompt you to go see your doctor if they happen to appear.
#1. Changes in Eating Habits
If you’re eating more or perhaps less than normal, then food is being used as a coping tool for what you are feeling. The comfort of food can soothe the difficult mood swings and other feelings that occur. Many people with SAD experience binging spells where all they can think about is food… or avoiding it.
#2. Changes in Sleep
It’s very common to have a bout of acute insomnia every now and then. When you start to struggle with sleep every night, then you might wish to speak with your doctor. The opposite is also true. If you suddenly don’t want to get out of bed for any reason, then it is time to care enough to make an appointment.
#3. You’re Easily Irritated
SAD can be very sneaky, sometimes showing up only as a heightened level of irritability. Your mood might be grumpy. People might describe you as “cranky.” If your usual coping skills aren’t balancing out your mood, then it’s time to talk to someone about what is going on.
#4. You Can’t Focus
On a busy day, you might feel like it would be helpful to have 3 of you around instead of just you. If your mind feels like that every day and you struggle to stay focused on a specific task, then it could be SAD. This is especially true if your lack of focus is because you are thinking about things that make you feel empty or sad.
#5. Nothing Makes You Happy
You used to love to play video games and taking long walks on the beach. Now nothing seems to make you happy – not even your hobbies or your favorite ice cream. If you’re not taking part in things you enjoy because you’re uninterested, then it could be SAD. Skipping an outing or two isn’t as concerning as skipping everything that once gave you joy.
#6. Negative Self-Talk
Negative self-talk is a bad habit. If you make a mistake, you might say, “That was stupid,” to yourself. That stuff happens. With SAD, negative self-talk is more than a habit. It is a frequent occurrence. It also tends to involve statements like, “I don’t matter anymore.” This brings on guilt and shame, which creates a spiral of more negative self-talk.
SAD can have varying levels of intensity for each person. The symptoms of SAD can vary as well. If you’re experiencing any of these signs or you have symptoms that are bothersome, then be proactive. See your doctor. It may be the first step toward feeling better.