Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter.
CAUSES OF SAD
SAD may begin during the teen years or in adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more often in women than in men. People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD.
Symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms are usually the same as with other forms of depression:
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
- Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective. To manage your symptoms at home:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Take medicines the right way, and learn how to manage the side effects.
- Learn to watch for early signs that your depression is getting worse, and have a plan if it does get worse.
- Try to exercise more often. Look for activities that make you happy.
- Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. These can make depression worse over time. They may also affect your judgment about suicide.
Light therapy using a special lamp with a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun may also be helpful. Start treatment during the fall or early winter, before the symptoms of SAD begin. Follow your health care provider's instructions about how to use light therapy. A common practice is to sit a couple of feet away from the light box for about 30 minutes every day. Symptoms of depression should improve with 3 to 4 weeks if light therapy is going to help.
With no treatment, symptoms usually get better on their own with the change of seasons. However, symptoms can improve more quickly with treatment.
Adapted from information provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.