Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or to talk with a Mental Health Counselor, please call Behavioral Health Services at 630-933-4000.
Problems may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Fall and winter seasonal affective disorder (winter depression)
Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating and processing information
When to see a doctor or mental health counselor
It's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't seem to get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor or mental health counselor. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or find yourself turning to alcohol or other substances for comfort or relaxation.
It's likely, as with many mental health conditions, that genetics, age and, perhaps most importantly, your body's natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing the condition. A few specific factors that may come into play include:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body's internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression.
- Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Talk to your doctor to see whether taking melatonin supplements is a good option.
- Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, perhaps leading to depression.
Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Being female. Some studies show that seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but that men may have more severe symptons.
- Living far from the equator. Seasonal affective disorder appears to be more common among people who live far north or sounth of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and the longer days of summer.
- Family history. As with other types of depression, some studies have shown that pelple with seasonal affective disorder are more likely to have blood relatives with the condition.
Take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, seasonal affective disorder can worsen and lead to problems if it's not treated. These can include:
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Social withdrawl
- School or work problems
- Substance abuse
- Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get bad.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Especially if your seasonal depression symptoms are severe, you may need medications, light therapy or other treatments to manage seasonal affective disorder. However, there are some measures you can do on your own that may help, such as:
- Make your enviornment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, add skylights and trim tree branches that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
- Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
Source: Mayo Clinic