Seasonal Affective Disorder?
disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition that results in depression. It is
normally provoked by seasonal change. People typically experience the condition
in winter (PubMed, 2013). The condition most
often occurs in women and in adolescents and young adults (NAMI, 2012).
of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The exact cause of SAD is unknown.
Contributing factors can vary from person to person. However, people who live
in parts of the country that have long winter nights (due to higher latitudes)
and less sunlight are more likely to experience the condition. For example, SAD
is more common in Canada and Alaska than in sunnier Florida (NAMI, 2012).
Light is thought to influence SAD. One theory
is that decreased sunlight exposure affects the natural biological clock that
regulates hormones, sleep, and moods. Another theory is that light-dependent
brain chemicals are more greatly affected in those with SAD.
People whose family members have a history of
psychological conditions are also at greater risk for SAD.
the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
While SAD affects people differently, symptoms
most commonly begin is in October or November and end in March or April.
However, it is possible to experience symptoms before or after this time.
Generally speaking, there are two types of
SAD: wintertime and summertime.
Symptoms of wintertime SAD include:
of interest in social activities
Symptoms of summertime SAD include:
In severe instances, people with SAD can
experience suicidal thoughts.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosed?
The symptoms of SAD can mirror several other
conditions. These include:
A physician may recommend several tests to
rule out these conditions before they can diagnose SAD, such as thyroid hormone
testing with a simple blood test.
A physician or psychiatrist will ask you
several questions about your symptoms and when you first noticed them. People
with SAD tend to experience symptoms every year. It is not typically related to
an emotional event, such as a relationship break-up.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?
Both forms of SAD can be treated with
counseling and therapy. Another treatment for wintertime SAD is light therapy,
in which a specialized light box or visor is used for at least 30 minutes each
day to replicate natural light.
Another option is a “dawn simulator,” which
uses a timer-activated light to mimic the sunrise. This helps to stimulate the
Light therapy should be used only under a
physician’s supervision and on approved devices. Other light-emitting sources,
such as tanning beds, are not safe for use.
Healthy lifestyle habits can also help
minimize SAD symptoms. These can include:
diet with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables
Some patients benefit from medications such
as antidepressants. These include fluoxetine (Prozac) and bupropion
Should I Seek Medical Help?
If you experience symptoms associated with SAD,
see a physician, counselor, or psychiatrist.
If you have thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or others, or
feel that life is no longer worth living, seek immediate medical attention or
call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for more