Seasonal Affective Disorder - Signs and Symptoms

Depression that occurs during Fall or Winter and improves during Spring and Summer is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD).  The cyclical nature of SAD is what distinguishes it from other types of Depressive Disorders such as Major Depression or Dysthymia.

Research shows that decreased daylight plays a significant role in the incidence of SAD.

Common signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • Low energy or excessive sleep and/or insomnia
  • Changes in appetite. SAD sometimes causes food cravings in order to temporarily boost energy. Alternatively, some people experience loss of appetite
  • Irritability and anger
  • Changes in your relationships with others
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Guilt
  • Dread or uncertainty about the future
  • Decreased motivation.
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Sadness

Treatments that have been proven effective  for Depressive Disorders can also be effective in treating SAD.  Studies have shown that the most effective treatment is a combination of Psychotherapy and Medication.

  • Psychotherapy:  can help you talk about your feelings, identify troubling thought patterns, and help you uncover tools and strategies that will help you cope. It may also help improve your relationships, by providing a space to explore dynamics and find alternatives. A therapist can also help you create lifestyle changes such as improved nutrition, exercise and sleep that can help as well. 
  • Medication:  Depression alters chemicals in your brain, such as Neurotransmitters.  At times, therapy and lifestyle changes are not enough to provide relief. Antidepressants have to studied to be effective in the treatment of Depression by helping Neurotransmitters properly do their jobs. Psychotherapy and Anti-Depressants taken concurrently have been studied to be increasingly more effective than any medication alone.

If you are someone you know might be struggling with SAD, or with any kind of Depression, help is available.  There is no shame in asking for it.