Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that tends to occur every year at the same time. Like other types of depression, seasonal affective disorder is a feeling of deep sadness and hopelessness during early winter. Some people can also have this feeling during spring or summer. This form of seasonal depression is known as summer depression.
General Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression. However, the key difference is that SAD is seasonal, with symptoms that come and go according to the changing seasons. Symptoms of SAD can be mild, severe, or anywhere in between.1
The symptoms of SAD include:
1. Lack Of Energy
If you have SAD, you are more likely to feel tired. You may experience unexplained fatigue, specifically during the winter season.
2. Sleep Problems
While little sleep is common with other forms of depression, you’ll find yourself sleeping more than usual if you have SAD.
3. Loss Of Interest
Because you are tired and sleeping all the time, you may not enjoy the things you used to normally. People suffering from SAD cannot accomplish their daily tasks and they feel dissatisfied.
4. Negative Attitude
You may appear to be more irritable, moody, or pessimistic. You may also display behavioral problems, perform poorly at work, and have difficulty interacting in social situations.
5. Change In Appetite
SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than men.
You tend to overeat and prefer high carbohydrate foods over healthy foods. This could result in weight gain during the winter months.
Symptoms Of Winter-Onset Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is found to be a more frequent occurrence in those living far from the equator.
These depressive symptoms usually build up in the late autumn and winter season.2
- Low energy
- Heavy arms and legs
- Weight gain
- Social withdrawal
Symptoms Of Summer-Onset Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Although the predominant pattern involves fall or winter depression, you can experience symptoms of depression during the summer months too.3
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Violent behavior
How SAD Affects Children
SAD has been reported to have occurred in children and teenagers too. Children with SAD regularly experience sadness, fatigue, sleep problems, irritability, lack of concentration, and poor performance at school.
Seasonal Affective Disorder According To Science
- It is observed that people suffering from SAD have trouble regulating serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation.
- People with SAD overproduce melatonin. It is a known fact that darkness increases the production of melatonin. Hence, with an increase in melatonin levels, people suffering from SAD tend to sleep more than usual.
- People with SAD may produce less Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D levels are associated with depression symptoms.4
When Is The Right Time To Seek Medical Help?
We all have sad days, and while it’s tempting to crawl under a blanket and stay there, it won’t really help us feel better in any way. Feeling low or down is completely normal from time to time. Remember that you’ve felt better before and you will feel better again.
However, if you feel low for days together and you aren’t motivated enough to do your normal activities, go see a doctor right away. You can also consult with your therapist if you’re feeling hopeless and have irregular sleep patterns.
Other Options To Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder
Try light therapy as it can treat more than just depression. Most people with SAD feel better after using light therapy. This is because light therapy replaces the lost sunlight exposure and resets the body’s internal clock. It also helps reset your “biological clock”, which controls sleeping and waking.5
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy for SAD involves the use of pleasant activity scheduling to counteract the lack of activity by developing interests. A study found that CBT, light therapy, and their combination were effective in treating SAD.
It is important that you inform your doctor if you’re using an alternative therapy or if you’re thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your medical treatment. If you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder, be sure to check with a medical professional and explore alternative treatment options.