SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that is caused by the effect of various atmospheric and weather conditions on one's personal psychology. It is a form of depression that typically begins in the fall and winter and goes away in the spring and summer. Although there can be episodes in the summertime, they are most common in the fall and winter.


Signs and Symptoms:


Seasonal Affective Disorder is a particular form of depression, but not a separate disorder in and of itself. Its symptoms are often the result of the character and quality of light and the length of daylight in contrast to hours of darkness, conditions created by the changing of the seasons. The criteria for the depressive disorder is the basic condition, but along with the variable that the depression increases in some seasons and decreases in other seasons for a continuous period of 2 years or more. As such, the seasonal depressions must be recurrent over and above other depressive characteristics.


Symptoms of Major Depression must first apply:


  • Feelings of depression daily and recurring every day

  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness

  • Low energy levels

  • A loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed

  • Problems in sleeping, going to sleep, and staying asleep

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loss of weight

  • Feelings of lethargy and reluctance to do anything

  • Feelings of agitation

  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide



Symptoms occurring in the winter pattern of SAD include:


  • Low energy

  • Feeling sleepy often, wanting to sleep a lot

  • Weight gains

  • Eating often and overeating

  • Carbohydrates carvings

  • Withdrawal from social contacts




Symptoms that less frequently occur in summer SAD include:


  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Insomnia

  • Feelings of agitation

  • Feeling restlessness

  • Feelings of anxiety

  • Unusual violent behavior


Risk Factors


There are certain attributes and circumstances potentially increasing SAD risk:


  • SAD occurs 4 time more often in women than in men.

  • SAD occurs more often in people that live far, either north or south, of the equator.

  • SAD can occur in family lines, and especially in family lines exhibiting depression.

  • Depressive or Bipolar disorders often predispose SAD.

  • It is more prevalent in the young rather than in older people.



There are also some biological indicators of SAD:


  • Differences in serotonin production in the winter than in the summer.

  • Melatonin may be overproducing. Melatonin affects sleep patterns, and in shorter winter days, more melatonin is produced than in longer summer days. The effect of this is to cause people to feel sleepy and want to sleep more in the wintertime.

  • Vitamin D production is low.


Treatments and Therapies


The starting place is psychological counseling to identify and isolate symptoms and to determine if there may be other causative elements present other than SAD. Other therapies focus on some combination of light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and learning coping mechanisms.