Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as SAD, which is a type of depression. This form of depression occurs at the same time each year and begins in the fall. SAD can last throughout the winter months and usually does not continue into the spring or summer months. There are reasons why these months are more prevalent for this depression disorder. Shorter days, with more hours of darkness, the colder weather, which usually means for most people being indoors more often promote this type of depression. The reduced amount of natural sunlight is also another factor in Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to some research that has been done. The treatment for SAD can include antidepressant medication and therapies, like light therapy. This is a condition that will need diagnosing and treatment in order for life to be normal during these months when the seasonal depression strikes.
The symptoms of this seasonal type of depression can include:
• The classic feelings of depression, the hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness
• Anxiety • Sleeping more than normal
• Loss of energy
• Feelings of fatigue
• Loss of interest in activities
• Social withdrawal
• Weight gain, with cravings for foods high in carbohydrates
• Difficulty concentrating
There has been research done to find the cause of SAD and why it strikes at the same time each year and, while there is no conclusive data, there are some factors that are believed to play a role in this type of depression. These factors include the biological clock, along with serotonin and melatonin levels in the body. The biological clock, medically known as circadian rhythm can be affected in the fall and winter months due to decreased sunlight. This disrupts the circadian rhythm and this can cause the feelings of depression when coupled with the other factors. Serotonin plays a critical role in the brain as a neurotransmitter, which affects the mood. The reduced amount of sunlight can cause a decreased amount of serotonin in the body. Melatonin is another chemical in the brain that helps the balance of hormones in the body, affecting sleep patterns and mood. This also can decrease with the decreased amount of sunlight and other factors. The three of these combined can be reasons that depression occurs during the fall and winter months. There are also certain people that are more at risk for SAD due to reduced sunlight like living far from the equator, like in living in the north where it is short day light hours. The winter is longer, the days are shorter, which means less sunlight. There are some groups of people more at risk for this seasonal type of depression; women are more often diagnosed with SAD, than men. Women have more severe symptoms when affected by the yearly seasonal depression. Another group that is more at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder are people that have a family history that includes SAD. These are people that have a parent that suffers from the condition and other relatives.