Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with changes in seasons: SAD begins and ends around the same time each year. If you notice a major shift in your mood and behavior every time the seasons change, you might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subset of mood disorders where individuals, who are mentally healthy for much of the year, show symptoms of depression at a consistent time of the year, most often during winter. SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression, which is related to the seasonal changes in lighting.
Depression can also occur along with other mood disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety. As with other types of depression, SAD can worsen and cause problems if not treated. Because there are different types of depression, a doctor may need time to diagnose SAD accurately.
A health care provider will only diagnose SAD when an individual has symptoms of major depressive disorder that develop and recede during certain times each year. Not everyone who has SAD will have all the symptoms listed below. SAD symptoms may range in severity, often interfering with personal relationships.
People who suffer from SAD are more likely to have a blood relative who has SAD or another form of depression. People who have a family history of mental health conditions are also at greater risk of developing SAD. Family History Having close relatives who have a history of other types of depression can make it more likely that SAD can develop.
Personal history of depression Those who have had a history of depression or bipolar disorder, or currently suffer from one of these conditions, are more likely to develop SAD. SAD is not considered to be a distinct disorder, but is a type of depression that is characterized by its repeated seasonal patterns, with symptoms lasting approximately 4-5 months each year. People with SAD, or seasonal pattern major depressive disorder, have symptoms of depression that increase in frequency with increasing gradualness with the beginning of shorter days. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of major depression, and sufferers can experience any of the associated symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, a loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interactions, problems sleeping and eating, difficulties with concentration and making decisions, decreased sexual desire, energy deficits, or anxiety.
Seasonal affective disorder Other names Depressive disorders with seasonal patterns, winter depression, summer depression, seasonal depression Bright light therapy is a common treatment for seasonal affective disorder, as well as circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Research shows that psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder, and can provide longer-term benefits than light therapy–the daily use of a bright, artificial light lamp–or antidepressant medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for instance, helps you learn more about SAD, how to cope with symptoms, and how to help prevent future episodes.
Although light therapy is uniquely effective in treating winter depression episodes, the care plan for patients with SAD must consider all treatment options, including somatic and psychosocial treatments. According to these guidelines, use of light therapy should only be considered in patients with a well-documented, seasonal, nonpsychotic, winter depression episode occurring within the framework of a recurrent major depression, bipolar II, or a minor seasonal depression episode.
Depression is more commonly treated with light therapy, psychotherapy, and, in some cases, antidepressants. Depression may be present for weeks, months, or years without treatment, but most people respond well to medications, therapy, or some combination. Depression frequently occurs along with other conditions, like heart disease or cancer.
If you have any of these conditions, your depression symptoms might get worse during the seasons. For some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring symptoms of mania, or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), while autumn and winter may be times of depression. Some people actually do experience episodes of depression starting in the spring or summer, but it is much rarer.
About 10% to 20% of people in the U.S. can experience the milder forms of the winter blues. The winter blues, a milder form of SAD, can affect even more people. Seasonal depression can hit as many as 11 million people each year in the United States, and another 25 million people could experience the milder form called winter blues. Key Takeaways About SAD is a type of depression that happens in a specific season of the year, most commonly in fall and winter.
Signs and symptoms of SAD include the ones associated with major depression, as well as a few specific symptoms that vary between winter- and summer-like SAD. Because the timing of onset of winter-pattern SAD is so predictable, individuals with a history of SAD may benefit from starting the treatments mentioned above earlier in the fall, to help prevent or lessen the severity of the depression. A doctor would make a diagnosis of SAD only if the symptoms of depression became more prevalent in a specific season every year.
For instance, seasonal variations in mood and behavior noted in the general population suggest against SAD as a unique diagnostic entity. In addition, symptoms of SAD overlap with symptoms of other, more well-established subtypes of depression: summer depression, which has a typical episode of depression, and winter depression, which has an atypical depression. Winter depression is responsive to treatment with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and so is atypical depression. Until additional studies clarify these issues, phototherapy offers clinicians another effective treatment option for clearly-defined cases of winter depression, and warrants efforts made to detect such a seasonal pattern in patients experiencing depressive episodes.
Talk therapy and antidepressant medications may also reduce the likelihood that depression will return. This may help to replace the negative thoughts that are a part of depression. The negative thoughts will disappear when the depression responds to the therapy.
If you frequently feel sad, blue, miserable, unhappy, or in the dumps, you might be depressed. When the days begin to shrink and the weather gets colder, many people can start experiencing symptoms that look like depression.