5 Subtle Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

by Pamela J. Hobart

Another fall, another opportunity for Seasonal Affective Disorder to strike — even if you haven't had it before, this may just be your lucky year. Though you would think that SAD would be easy to spot because it comes and goes with the seasons, some Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms aren't obvious, so now is the time to remember what to look for. Since the seasons can change kind of slowly in fits and starts, you might not even realize what's happening until it's too late. Other non-obvious symptoms of SAD get chalked up to normal cyclical changes that are normal for everyone, when it is possible that this is not actually the case.

You don't have to spend a third or more of your year feeling down and out. Some Seasonal Affective Disorder remedies really do work, and all the better if you can use them to nip your Seasonal Affective Disorder in the bud. Before you write one of these observations off as normal, nothing, or universal, pause to consider whether it is seriously affecting your life for the worse. Regardless of the season, your mood is a serious matter, and you don't necessarily need to just tough it out when your happiness takes a turn for the worse. Here are a few not-so-obvious signs to look out for.

1. Your appetite changes

Jokes aside, you're not a bear, and you don't need to store up food to hibernate for the winter. In fact, you probably need even fewer calories than you did in the summer, when you were walking and hiking and biking more. Everyone needs a treat now and then. But if your stomach becomes a bottomless pit as soon as Labor Day comes around, you might be suffering from SAD.

2. You experience changes in energy levels

Again, humans don't hibernate! You can and should be approximately as energetic in the fall and winter as you are the rest of the year. It's one thing to enjoy an occasional slow morning cuddled up in bed. But if you can't even bring yourself to fulfill your normal obligations, it might be more than a mood.

3. You don't feel like doing normal activities

If you find yourself flaking on more engagements, gym outings, errands, and other activities than usual because the prospect of venturing outside is too daunting, you might have SAD. No one really enjoys the bitter cold, but it shouldn't keep you from living your life.

4. You have a heavy feeling in your limbs

Seasonal Affective Disorder involves a complicated interplay between brain and body. In other words, it's not just all in your head. Some SAD sufferers report feeling a heavy "leaden" sensation in their arms and legs. This isn't normal! You shouldn't have to drag yourself around until spring.

5. You have an increased desire to be alone and trouble getting along with people

You might have a higher or lower individual baseline need for alone time, and that's just fine, but there's no particular reason why it should vary by season. If you find yourself wanting to spend much more time alone than usual, or you're feeling much more sensitive to social rejection than usual, you might be suffering from SAD. Push through that urge to hunker down, and try getting out for a change — you'll probably be very glad you did.

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