Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression is a type of depression that correlates to changes in seasons. Most people with SAD start to experience some symptoms in the fall that continue, and can sometimes worsen, in the winter months. In people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, symptoms of depression will usually dissipate in the spring and summer, though a small percentage of people do report SAD symptoms during the summer.
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are many external factors that can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Winter can often bring dreary weather, such as colder temperatures and lots of precipitation. These factors, combined with shorter daylight hours, can make it difficult to find the energy to get through the season. Geographically, those who live farther from the equator, either north or south, are more likely to be affected by SAD, perhaps because they experience longer periods of darkness in the winter and/or longer days in the summer.
Additionally, if you have a family history of clinical depression or if you are also suffering clinical depression or bipolar disorder, you could be at higher risk for developing SAD or experiencing worsening symptoms during the winter months.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Weight gain
- Daytime fatigue
- Carbohydrate craving
- Lethargy/lack of energy
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Hopeless and/or suicidal feelings
- Social withdrawal
Though some experience only a mild form of SAD, a small percentage experience symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization or dramatically affect their quality of life. Those suffering from SAD who work long hours or during the night may have their symptoms further exacerbated, as they see less daylight.
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD is a mental health condition that can be improved with treatment. Treatments include stress management and light therapy using a special lamp that imitates daylight. Of those who seek treatment for SAD, about 80 percent see a reduction in their symptoms. The important thing is that you not dismiss your feelings of sadness as just another case of the “winter blues.” Seek professional help from a psychiatrist or therapist, or by talking with your primary care doctor. There is no need to suffer from SAD symptoms in silence, take the professional steps you need to maintain your health and happiness!