December is SAD awareness month, drawing attention to a condition with growing notoriety that, often in comparison with the winter blues, might be debilitating in its true nature and severity. SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is a mood disorder related to other types of depression, resembling major depressive disorder (MDD), dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.
Nevertheless, while seasonal affective disorder affects roughly 10 million people in the USA alone, it’s a poorly understood condition with various potential causes and triggers. Let’s take a moment to dive further into how seasonal affective disorder works and why it might exacerbate and amplify existing pain conditions and produce latest pain symptoms to light.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterised by increased depressive symptoms with seasonal changes. Most individuals who develop seasonal affective disorder are most strongly affected by the shift toward the winter or the summer. Quite a lot of reasons are thought to contribute to the event of seasonal affective disorder, and each case is slightly different:
- For one, there may be a genetic component. Some individuals are inherently predisposed towards feeling more down as seasons change. This may contribute to their risk of developing mood disorder symptoms in winter or summer.
- While our bodies have internal biological clocks, they still depend on certain environmental aspects to control physical and psychological function. Spending an excessive amount of time away from daylight or struggling to get rest because the days grow longer can affect an individual biologically and mentally. Some individuals are more vulnerable to these changes.
- Seasonal stressors can affect the event of a seasonal affective disorder. For instance, feeling lonely around the vacations, struggling financially as a result of increased heating bills, or assorted winter costs. Alternatively, those that find seasonal work might find themselves stressed and overworked in the summertime months and usually tend to dread the subsequent work season.
- Chronic health issues, particularly chronic pain conditions, can increase the danger of seasonal affective disorder. Some conditions generally worsen with the shift in seasons because it gets progressively colder or hotter. Along with physical symptoms, a change in seasons for patients with chronic pain can bring mental health symptoms resembling depressive thoughts and irritability, and in some cases, result in a seasonal affective disorder.
- Some neurological processes might be affected by seasonal changes, whether as a result of a rise in stress hormones or a change in environmental aspects. Something as minute as a shift toward vitamin D deficiency might significantly contribute to mood stability and emotional regulation.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Identifying seasonal affective disorder takes work. Most individuals experience some type of winter blues because the days get shorter, the nights get colder, and costs go up. Some people thrive within the winter and rainy months, preferring it to the oppressive heat and usually getting more out of their day.
But these individual preferences are wholly different from the pathology of a seasonal affective disorder, which might be debilitating. As much as 6 percent of individuals affected by SAD are hospitalized sooner or later, and over a 3rd have an increased risk of substance use disorder as a result of their condition. Depressive symptoms for a seasonal affective disorder can differ from case to case but often involve:
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Feeling lonely and isolated, even in a crowd or during festivities.
- Increased feelings of anhedonia or an inability to feel joy.
- Feeling total dread for the longer term or feeling such as you aren’t long for this world.
- Heavy limbs, physical fatigue, and being drained despite oversleeping.
- Trouble concentrating or specializing in tasks at hand.
- Drastic changes in appetite, starting from sudden weight gain to extreme weight reduction.
- Intentionally becoming socially isolated, pushing away family and friends.
- Irritability and anxiety, shorter temper, heightened stress.
- Symptoms are debilitating enough to affect work, school, and real-life relationships.
- Other conditions, physical conditions, medication use, or substance use cannot explain symptoms.
- Symptoms last just a few weeks or greater than a month and are consistent with seasonal shifts.
As a mood disorder, seasonal affective disorder also has a sophisticated relationship with pain. As a risk factor and potential trigger, ongoing pain – resembling chronic pain – can contribute to the event of mental health issues like anxiety, medical trauma, and depression. The stress of being in pain makes an individual more vulnerable to other compounding stressors and makes it harder to administer mental health symptoms successfully.
But chronic pain and depression share an unlucky two-way relationship. Studies have shown that depressive symptoms and a low mood actively reduce pain thresholds and increase pain sensitivity, causing you to feel aches you would possibly not have even noticed in a healthier, more positive mindset. How you’re thinking that and feel can actively make conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome so much worse.
How Does Depression and Mood Affect Pain?
There may be a link within the brain between the way you process pain signals and manage your mood. While your brain utilizes various brain chemicals to speak essential information and enable conscious and unconscious change, some overlap exists within the brain’s pathways to transmit pain signals and mood changes.
Which means that a number of the medication utilized in the treatment of depression also can reduce pain, and certain conditions that promote depressive thoughts and low mood worsen the pain. An individual’s risk for seasonal affective disorder is increased by pain conditions, while depressive thoughts worsen the pain. This dangerous cycle requires a treatment plan.
Incorporating Mental Health Treatment in Pain Management
When pain specialists and clinics discuss holistic treatment approaches and comprehensive pain management, they discuss treatment plans that consider an individual’s biological, psychological, and social health profile. It isn’t enough to have a look at an individual’s symptoms and prescribe them the matching painkillers.
Lifestyle aspects, mental health symptoms, and social context – especially when an individual’s symptoms appear to spike around certain times of the yr – all matter when formulating a treatment plan. To that end, an experienced pain specialist will incorporate traditional pain management tools along with one-on-one therapy, counseling, group therapy, or unique mental health treatments for treatment-resistant symptoms.