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nebule's avatar

Is it possible for traumatic events to create a pseudo-seasonal affected disorder?

Asked by nebule (16446points) November 15th, 2010

Firstly, I’m not talking about the traditional diagnosis of SAD – seasonal affected disorder, which I believe occurs due to lack of light.

I find that every year in Autumn/ Fall I get incredibly anxious, experience an impending sense of doom, worry extensively and do seem to get more introverted. However, for some reason it seems very much associated with the weather, the cold, the nights etc. but on a deeper level of memories rather than just seasonal changes.

I find myself remembering horrible times in my past and they literally fill me with dread, through what seems to be the cold. The trouble is..these horrible times have occurred throughout other seasons too and only seem to take a hold on me in the colder months. I’m reluctant to think this is -‘merely’ (with all due respect) SAD.

I’m constantly dealing with my past through counselling and I’m getting there…. but I can’t help but think that there’s something more, something deeper going on here… I’m not sure if I’ve explained myself properly or at all clearly so please forgive me and I will elaborate if needs be x

Will this last for the rest of my life, every time fall comes around regardless of how much I deal with the traumatic events?

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16 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

No specialist, I believe, can tell you whether this is exactly true or not – people are so varied in their emotional response, in how their bodies deal with trauma. All I can say is that it sounds plausible to me that, yes, you can feel this way around the colder months even if your trauma occurred during other seasons..perhaps you associate specific seasons with feeling less safe and your coping around traumatic events gets affected more during the times you feel less safe.

zenvelo's avatar

November/December are so “family” focused that it can bring up lots of unresolved issues. In AA, a lot of people suggest people stay close to meetings, go to meetings on holidays, find alternative gatherings, create new traditions. (If you do something fun or meaningful two years in a row, it becomes a tradition.)

Maybe it’s not the dealing with the issues as much as identifying your triggers, and talking to a professional that would help.

chyna's avatar

My dad died three days before Christmas in 1975. For many, many years, I had a dread of Christmas that began in the middle of November and ran until after the first of the year. I would withdrawl from friends, get into a depression, and just hole up as much as I could. I did realize why I was feeling that way though. I eventually got out of it, but as I get older find myself getting back those old feelings.

marinelife's avatar

You could be experiencing trauma because of an anniversary, either to an event you remember or to one you don’t remember or that even occurred in previous generations that you absorbed from your parents.

nebule's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’ve had quite a lot of traumatic events although there are a few and a particular time of my life that I associate more with this particular season but can’t seem to place my finger on the exact ‘event’ perhaps it was just the whole ‘time’ ‘era’. I do definitely feel less safe…almost hibernatory ( i know that’s not a word but can’t think of the right term!)

@zenvelo I like the idea of creating new traditions. Thank you… I wonder though if it’s possible to create something ‘new’ if you’re not sure exactly what the problem is. Family is an issue for me at the moment, although again I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. I have a counselling session tomorrow so maybe I will be able to explore that more then.

@chyna That’s very sad, I’m so sorry. How did you get out of it? And why do you think it’s returning?

@marinelife I often wonder whether something that I can’t remember happened to me when I was child (I’ve uncovered a few suppressed memories through counselling), like being left outside for a long period of time when I was a baby for some reason…or something…it just feels incredibly deep and unfathomable. In fact and I don’t know whether this has anything to do with it at all…(and I’d normally be much more inclined to think it something traumatic that I can remember but…) when I was a baby we lived with my aunt and uncle who had a child around the same time that I was born. She died of cot-death on my Dad’s birthday which is the 8th of November. I’ve never thought of this having affected me at’s always been an issue for my Dad if anyone and obviously the family involved…but.. I don’t know…

maybe I’m clutching at straws I just know that the feeling is very frightening

chyna's avatar

I hate to think that my happiness depended on someone else, but it will sound that way. When I met my husband, I was still kind of like that but his zest for life and love of all holidays pulled me out of it. I think the reason it’s returning is my mom is very sick right now and I keep thinking this may be the last ______ (fill in the blank with a holiday or even just a day) that she will be with us.

perg's avatar

This sounds like a variation of trait anxiety. My uneducated guess is that you ARE suffering from seasonal affective disorder, but your anxiety is seeking a target that makes more “sense.” So you seek a known trauma on which to focus an otherwise nebulous collection of bad feelings.

First off, don’t dismiss SAD. It can be crippling. Second, recognize that you are affected by it and make a conscious effort to try to avoid “going there” – recognizing that you’re substituting past traumatic events that are not related to this particular anxiety you currently feel, and redirecting your thoughts (yeah, easier said than done). And finally, talk to your counselor about how to address SAD for itself. I’ve found light therapy to be helpful.

nebule's avatar

@chyna I do sincerely hope that you have your mom for a lot longer than you expect xxx And sometime we do need others to help us move through difficult times xx

@perg Yes, I probably shouldn’t dismiss it, it’s just that I’ve always thought that it’s more of a generalised depression (severe lethargy, sadness, absence of enthusiasm etc.) rather than say involving emotions such as fear and anxiety? Light boxes can be pretty expensive can’t they? I’ll have a look into it…

wundayatta's avatar

Most of the people in my bipolar group, including me, were experiencing irritability and a bit of depression and some other nasty things. We’re pretty clear that it’s the light. When you get depressed for no apparent reason, your mind tries to explain things, and thus it brings back memories that can explain the depression.

I think SAD is a fairly serious thing. If we don’t take care, we could end up in full blown depressions. We’ve got to make sure we exercise, sleep, eat, spend more time outdoors, and possibly get our meds adjusted.

I think it really helps knowing it’s not you and it’s not your memories that are causing these feelings. It’s that the feelings are causing the memories. It helps knowing, ahead of time, that this is likely to happen, so we can tell ourselves it isn’t our fault and it has nothing to do with anything other than light.

marinelife's avatar

@nebule It could easily be the infant’s death. The entire family would have been totally traumatized by the loss of that child plus your parents would perhaps have had increased anxiety that something would happen to you, which could easily have been passed on to you.

Blueroses's avatar

You might talk to your physician about supplement therapy. It’s not the answer for everybody but I found great relief for very similar symptoms when my Dr. recommended 5-HTP and high doses of Vitamin D.

nebule's avatar

@wundayatta I’m not convinced about your feelings causing memories hypothesis I’m afraid. Feelings are real… things cause feelings (not that I’m denying feelings can’t cause other things…) but we generally has reasons for why we feel things…

janedelila's avatar

I have always found October to be an unlucky month for me in so many ways. I’ve lost a great job, had a boyfriend whose birthday was in October die, felt my mother slipping away, random various things. Sometimes it’s just a bad time for people, and it repeats. I try not to overanalyze, I just be careful in October.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Nothing lasts forever and this particular thing can be overcome by surrounding one’self with happy people, fun events, and as much sunshine as possible. Although your problems might not be only SAD, they could very well be linked to SAD, which could explain why it seems to affect you only in the Winter.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes @nebule, that’s how we are used to thinking about it. But if the feelings are caused by the light, then why would we blame some event in our lives? Personally, I’ve found that the initiation of events can happen so close together that the chain of causality appears to be one way. I’m saying to hold on a minute, and take a look at this. It could go the other way around. In fact, it should go the other way around. Less light causes depression. But we can’t see that in our primitive brains, so we look around for another reason, and when we find it, we latch onto it, not realizing we’ve got the chain of causalty going the wrong way.

nebule's avatar

@wundayatta I see what you mean, thank you hun x

I wonder if there is a similar thing with the cold…I mean the cold weather makes me reluctant to go outside. I can’t stand the cold whereas I used to feel excited at the magic of winter and going out all wrapped up with the freshness on my face…but I can’t even stand that at the moment. My body seems to detest it.

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