What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Do you experience mood-related health problems in the winter?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter blues or winter depression, is a mood disorder in which people experience depressive symptoms during the winter or a particular other season (although depressions during the winter seem to be most frequent). People suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder do not experience these symptoms during other seasons and have a normal mental health throughout the rest of the year.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
People that experience mood changes when the seasons change often experience the following symptoms:
- difficulty waking up in the morning
- tendency to oversleep
- tendency to overeat (especially a craving for carbohydrates)
- lack of energy
- difficulty concentrating on completing tasks
- withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
- general feeling of depression and pessimism
When the season is over, the symptoms usually clear up and they feel quite happy again.
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal mood variations appear to be related to light, or a lack thereof during the winter season. SAD has been shown to be measurably present in artic areas such as Finland where the SAD rate is 9.5%. Cloud cover and seasonal limitations in natural sun light seem to influence SAD. Thus, light therapy is a popular treatment for (particularly winter based) seasonal affective disorder.
How Serious is SAD?
SAD should not be taken lightly. According to one study, 6-35% of people that suffer from seasonal affective disorder require hospitalization during one period of illness. The symptoms of SAD are in line with those of clinical depression. Then again, many other patients say that they don’t experience major depressions but simply lack the energy to perform everyday activities. SAD Researcher Norman Rosenthal found that the prevalence of SAD in the adult US population is between 1.5% in florida and about 9% in northern USA.
A milder form of SAD that is experienced by an estimated 14.3% of the US population is called Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sad or depressed feelings in both SAD and SSAD patients can usually be taken care of by increasing solar exposure.
If you think you have symptoms of any type of depression you should talk to someone who can help you get treatment.
You can read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder here: