Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depressive illness
that occurs on a seasonal basis. The most common form of SAD starts
in late fall or early winter. It is also called winter depression.
SAD does affect some people during the summer and is called summer
depression. SAD is thought to be related to the amount of daylight a
person experiences, perhaps due to the effect on the body's
production of melatonin. SAD is more common in women than men and is
not often seen in children. It is more common the further north (in
the Northern Hemisphere) that you go. Risk increases for those with
other depressive illnesses.
Symptoms may include:
• Many of the same symptoms seen in other forms of depressive
illness including loss of interest or pleasure in activities and
relationships that normally are enjoyed; feelings of guilt,
worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness; and physical symptoms
such as headaches and constipation.
For winter depression:
• Severe depression of all types can lead to thoughts of death and
• Fatigue, sluggishness, increased need for sleep, irritability, and
• Increased appetite, especially for starchy or sweet foods
• A feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs; general decreased
• Increased sensitivity to social rejection and avoidance of social
For summer depression:
• Weight loss, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Diagnose the condition by asking about your symptoms, doing a
physical exam, and laboratory blood tests. A three-year mood
disturbance pattern is required for a definite diagnosis. Various
tests may be done to rule out other disorders that can bring on
• Treatment may include light therapy, medications such as
antidepressants, and psychotherapy or behavior therapy. There are
special light sources that may be used for about 30 minutes a day
during the mornings. It is most beneficial if used throughout the
winter and into spring.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• You can increase lighting by opening window coverings, using
bright lights on cloudy days, spending time outdoors, and being near
• Work closely with your doctor to find the most effective therapy
or combination of therapies for you. There are several different
types of antidepressant medications.
• Keeping a diary of mood changes may be helpful.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• With treatment and lifestyle changes, symptoms can be reduced or
• Complications can include lifestyle disruptions ranging from mild
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or SAD, or if
symptoms are no better with treatment.