What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the changes in seasons, most frequently affecting you during the winter months when the days grow short and offer less and less sunlight. Typically, symptoms start in the fall and continue through the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Although its most common onset is in winter, SAD can also affect people at different times during the year.
In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and relent during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people can have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms often start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Tiredness or low energy
Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Agitation or anxiety
Seasonal Changes and Bipolar Disorder
Seasonal changes can impact some people with bipolar disorder; spring and summer may bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can bring on depression.
What Causes SAD?
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels. A drop in the brain chemical serotonin that affects your mood might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men. And SAD occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults. Family history, having other forms of depression, and even the region you live in can be contributing factors to SAD.
Are you or someone you love dealing with SAD? Take this matter seriously. Like other forms of depression, the condition can worsen without treatment. Warning signs to look for include:
- Social withdrawal
- School or work problems
- Substance abuse
- Other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
The very good news is that SAD is treatable. SAD can be effectively managed and even cured when you address all three spheres—body, mind and spirit. Medication, psychological awareness and skills, and spiritual truths and principles are all integral parts of your life-transformation process.
At Honey Lake Clinic, our professional and experienced team of licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatric specialists understand what you’re going through and will assist you in regaining control of your life. The individualized treatment, experienced staff, and tranquil environment at Honey Lake Clinic can help you regain control of your life and find lasting transformation.