Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year (usually winter) for at least 2 years in a row. It sometimes is called the “winter blues” because most people with seasonal affective disorder have an episode of depression during the winter months although it is possible to experience SAD during summer months.
SAD consists of four central features:
Recurring major depressive episodes that begin around the same time each year (usually in September or October) and end around the same time each year (usually in April or May)
Full recovery from the symptoms during “nonseasonal” months (usually May through August)
Depressive episodes that occur during the same time of year for 2 consecutive years
Over the lifetime course of the illness, more depressive episodes during winter months than summer months
People with SAD who have episodes of depression in the winter usually live in areas far north of the equator, where there are shorter days in the winter months (such as Alaska and other northern states in the United States, as well as Canada and Scandinavian countries). They begin to get symptoms of depression in the fall, need treatment throughout the winter, and get better in the spring and summer as the days lengthen.
Less is known about seasonal affective disorder in which episodes of depression occur in the summer. Symptoms of summer SAD usually appear in late spring or early summer and resolve in the fall. Summer SAD may be related to excessive heat rather than a lack of light. A person with summer SAD may be irritable or have no energy.
The specific cause of SAD is not clearly understood. However, lack of sunlight caused by the shorter and darker days of winter, darkened or indoor working places, and long cloudy spells have been linked to episodes of depression in people with SAD. Some experts think SAD may be caused by a disturbance in circadian rhythms or problems with the regulation of a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called serotonin.
SAD can be difficult to distinguish from major depression. A family history of SAD increases the risk of developing SAD. While there is no known cure for SAD, the depressive episodes of SAD can be managed effectively with medications, counseling, light therapy, or a combination of these.
Original Article From BC Health Guide
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