Blog What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

person in a black coat walking through a forest preserve, potentially wondering "what is seasonal affective disorder"

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that affects mood and behavior with the change of the seasons. Most people with SAD start to experience symptoms in the late fall or early winter, and disperse during spring and summer. This is defined as winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder. Others experience symptoms during the spring and summer, known as summer-pattern SAD. These symptoms often last up to four or five months a year.

Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Feeling depressed for weeks or months on end
  • Losing interest in hobbies or social activities
  • Change in diet contributing to significant weight loss or gain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Recurring thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or death

Winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Overeating
  • Social withdrawal

Summer-pattern seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Lack of appetite leading to weight loss
  • Lack of sleep

While we do not know exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder, research suggests that sunlight may play a large role. Sunlight helps maintain healthy serotonin levels, which appear to decrease in people with SAD, especially during the winter. Furthermore, a vitamin D deficiency may exacerbate the condition. This spells trouble when 42% of the US population is vitamin D deficient.

Other findings show that excess production of melatonin may to blame. It may be a combination of both. Since serotonin and melatonin play a significant role in the seasonal night-day schedule, it is not surprising they are connected to SAD. They can dramatically impact sleep, mood and behavior in ways we have yet to fully understand.

What we do know is that seasonal affective disorder is common, and treatable.

Getting Help For Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you have experienced symptoms of SAD for two consecutive years or more, or have noticed a significant change in mood during certain times or season of the year, let’s talk. Schedule your first session with Dean A. Aman, LPCMH today. Contact us here.