With fall and winter quickly approaching and Daylight Saving Time ending soon, many people begin to experience the tell-tale symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is quite common, as it is estimated that about 14% of Americans experience bouts of depression that seem to retreat when spring arrives. Roughly 6% of Americans report feeling the symptoms of SAD much more intensely.
While those of us in South Florida generally avoid the cold weather felt elsewhere in the country, we are still subject to greater periods of darkness and a time change that can disrupt our routines and rhythms.
Those who struggle with SAD often display behaviors similar to clinical depression. They tend to sleep longer, experience a drop in energy level, have difficulty concentrating, eat more, and often withdraw from family and friends.
While SAD can impact a person’s work life and social life tremendously, it is possible that changes in emotions and behaviors can be extremely stressful for spouses and partners. Many mental health experts have reported that SAD takes a toll on relationships during the colder months. They also suggest early intervention and preparation to help make things easier for all involved.
Here are some helpful tips if you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from SAD.
Acknowledge Symptoms Right Away
SAD tends to manifest gradually. In most cases, these depressive symptoms are not immediately apparent. A sufferer may notice an increasing lack of energy or a spouse or partner may see that it is becoming more difficult for them to wake up in the morning. These changes can quickly become overwhelming, so identify and respond to these early.
Prepare for SAD by reassuring your partner that they will be alright. Many methods used to treat SAD, including bright light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, can be implemented early in the season. If antidepressants have worked in the past, encourage your partner to seek professional help and consistently take their medication. Honesty is truly the best policy when it comes to mental health, and recognizing SAD symptoms is the best way to foster positivity and trust in your relationship.
While your spouse or partner who suffers from SAD may not be motivated to stay active during the fall and winter, gentle encouragement and support from you will make a difference. Volunteer to exercise with them. Start small by suggesting a brisk evening walk or an at-home yoga session. Invite them to come with you on errands, as even a trip to the grocery store or the mall can provide a sense of rejuvenation.
Many SAD sufferers and their families plan vacations during this time of year. Something as simple as a change of pace could be enough to boost the production of serotonin, the chemical that is thought to be responsible for mood regulation and triggering SAD.
Understand That SAD Gets Better
Symptoms of SAD do go away over time, and therapy and self-care measures really do make SAD a treatable condition. In less serious circumstances, lightboxes can be purchased easily and inexpensively online, and most are portable. Therapy and medication are effective ways to treat more serious occurrences of SAD. Ask your spouse or partner to book an appointment with their therapist and offer to attend the session with them, or drive them to show your support. If your loved one experiences SAD symptoms, Susan Block, LMFT offers a comfortable and private place to discuss feelings and work towards making positive changes. While SAD can be a relationship game-changer, intervention and professional help can make all the difference. Call 954-675-1936 to schedule a free consultation today.
Susan Block is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in marriage, family and individual therapy. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University in 1997 and completed her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2004. Also an active member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), Susan Block offers Couples Counseling in South Florida, as well as online therapy throughout the state. Click on the link to find out more: https://coralspringscounselingcenter.com/counseling-specialties/online-therapy/