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Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Introduction

Do you prefer the sunny months of June, July, and August? Are the first warm days of spring especially sweet to you? Do you tend to gain weight during the winter? If you are struggling with depression and find that you can relate to some of these statements, you may be dealing with a specific type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by many symptoms, including a preference for the warmer months of spring and summer. People with SAD also tend to experience a loss of energy, deep sadness, feelings of regret, and withdrawal from others. What makes SAD stand apart from other forms of depression is its seasonal component. People with SAD find themselves having a rough time in the fall and winter.

Other symptoms that point specifically to SAD include:
– Cravings for carbohydrates
– A decreased interest in sexual activities
– Weight gain
– Overwhelming fatigue
– Sleeping more than you usually do

What SAD is Not

The “winter blues” is a less severe form of SAD that usually only lasts a few days. People with the winter blues generally experience the same symptoms, but can manage them more easily since it is a short-term condition.

Similarly, some people experience the “holiday blues” due to unrealistic or unmet expectations of the holiday season. Or perhaps they are remembering the loss of someone they love. Those with the holiday blues might also struggle to deal with all the stress that holiday celebrations tend to bring.

Are You at Risk?

You’re probably wondering how much at risk you are for SAD. Here are some factors to consider. If you experience any of the following factors, you are more likely to struggle with SAD:

– Live away from the equator
– Don’t get much natural sunlight
– Live in bad climates (windy, rainy)
– Recently moved from a tropical climate
– Family history of depression
– Experience disturbances or changes in your body’s clock

Plus, females tend to be more at risk for SAD than males.

Your Body’s Clock

Some doctors think that those who struggle with SAD have had their body’s natural rhythms upset. For example, our circannual rhythm is our yearly rhythm. We may tend to be more lethargic during the winter months and more energetic during the summer and spring. There’s also our circadian rhythm, which is our daily rhythm. Most of us sleep during the night when it is dark outside.

Basically, any disruption in your body’s clock can contribute to your SAD: working third shift, not being able to sleep at night, living in a place where seasons or weather patterns are different.

Overcoming SAD

Because SAD comes from both physical and emotional factors, it is often necessary to use therapies and solutions that address both aspects. As you strive to manage your SAD, take the time to understand the way it affects you personally so you can create a treatment plan or coping strategy that is right for you.


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