Seasonal affect disorder, (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during the same season every year. Most people experience seasonal affect disorder in the fall and winter months and it is therefore sometimes also called winter depression or seasonal depression. People usually start to experience symptoms in September or October and begin to feel better by April or May.
While the cause of seasonal affect disorder is unknown, most experts believe SAD is related to a lack of exposure to sunlight. Lack of exposure to daylight can upset an individual’s biological clock and cause a drop in serotonin levels, a chemical in the brain that affects mood. Another potential factor is that the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates our sleep patterns.
If you have SAD, you may:
• Feel grumpy, moody, or anxious
• Lose interest in your usual activities
• Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
• Gain weight
• Sleep more but still feel tired
• Have trouble concentrating
Anyone can be diagnosed with SAD, but it’s more common in:
• People between the ages of 15 and 55
• People who live far from the equator, where winter daylight hours are very short
• People who have a close relative with SAD
It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression because many of the symptoms are the same. Your doctor can do an assessment to determine if you have SAD. You may need to have blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as hypothyroidism.
For mild symptoms, spending time outdoors during the day or allowing more light into homes and workplaces may be helpful. For those whose symptoms are more severe, phototherapy or light therapy has been shown to be effective. During a light therapy session, patients are exposed to a device that emits bright light for an extended amount of time each day. If phototherapy isn’t effective, an antidepressant drug can be prescribed to help reduce or eliminate SAD symptoms.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.