What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?


People who get more than just blue in the winter months may find they have a seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Before self-diagnosis, it is important to research the disorder and talk to a healthcare professional.

Here are some things to know about SAD.

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What is it?

According to the National Institutes of Health, SAD, also called seasonal depression or seasonal mood disorder, is a type of depression that usually begins in late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.

For some, it starts in the spring and summer and goes away in the fall or winter, but this is very rare.

The cause of the disorder is not known, but researchers say that people with the disorder have an imbalance between serotonin, which affects mood, not enough vitamin D, which comes from sunlight, among other places. They also have a lot of melatonin, which regulates sleep, according to the NIH.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include feeling sad, irritable, hopeless or worthless, having little energy, difficulty eating or sleeping, a gloomy outlook, losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy and thoughts of death or suicide. According to the Mayo Clinic, specific symptoms of SAD in early winter include excessive sleep, weight gain and changes in appetite, particularly the craving for foods with a high carbohydrate content. Specific symptoms of early-onset SAD include insomnia, restlessness or anxiety, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

People with these symptoms and who feel depressed for days on end should consult their doctor.

Who affects SAD?

Anyone can be affected by SAD, but it is more common in women, young people and people living far from the equator, in areas where there is less sunlight throughout the day. People who have bipolar disorder or major depression, as well as those with blood relatives with SAD or other forms of depression, are more likely to be at risk for the disorder.

How can this be treated?

Light therapy is typically the primary treatment for SAD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, other treatments include medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and psychotherapy.


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