Seasonal Affective Disorder

Also called: SAD, Seasonal depression, Seasonal mood disorder

Some people experience a serious mood change during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression. It usually lifts during spring and summer.

Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms. They include

  • Sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Changes in weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy. But nearly half of people with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medicines and talk therapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or combined with light therapy.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following features are indicative of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • feeling depressed
  • feeling hopeless
  • having low energy
  • losing interest in activities
  • problems with sleeping
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight
  • feeling sluggish
  • feeling agitated
  • difficulty concentrating
  • frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • irritability
  • hypersensitivity to rejection
It is possible that Seasonal Affective Disorder shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following are the most common causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • circadian rhythm
  • drop in serotonin levels
  • change in melatonin levels

Risk Factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • female
  • young age
  • family history
  • clinical depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • living far from the equator

Prevention of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • taking early steps to manage symptoms
  • start treatment before symptoms normally start

Occurrence of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Seasonal Affective Disorder cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Not common between 50K - 500K cases

Common Age Group

Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • Physical exam: To evaluate the underlying physical health problem
  • Blood tests: To evaluate the underlying physical health problem
  • Psychological evaluation: To check for signs of depression

Doctor for Diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • Psychiatrist

Complications of Seasonal Affective Disorder if untreated

Yes, Seasonal Affective Disorder causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Seasonal Affective Disorder is left untreated:
  • suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • social withdrawal
  • school or work problems

Procedures for Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following procedures are used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • Light therapy: To cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood
  • Psychotherapy: To identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making patient feel worse

Self-care for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • Make environment sunnier and brighter: Makes feel better
  • Get outside in open air: Makes feel better
  • Exercise regularly: Helps relieving stress and anxiety

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
  • Intake St. John's wort supplement: Treats mild or moderate depression
  • Intake Sam-E dietary supplement: Helps treating depression
  • Intake melatonin dietary supplement: Helps regulating mood
  • Use Omega-3 fatty acids: Helps treating depression
  • Acupuncture: Helps relieving depression symptoms
  • Yoga: Helps relieving depression symptoms
  • Meditation: Helps relieving depression symptoms
  • Massage therapy: Helps relieving depression symptoms

Patient Support for Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The following actions may help Seasonal Affective Disorder patients:
  • Take vacations: Helps to manage seasonal affective disorder
  • Social groups: Offers support, a shoulder to cry on or a joke to give the patient a little boost

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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