Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms usually start in the late fall and continue throughout the winter.
Symptoms may include
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
The specific cause of SAD remains unknown, however, a few factors may play a role such as a disruption in your biological clock or circadian rhythm due to a reduced level of sunlight; a drop in a brain chemical called serotonin which affects mood; and a change in melatonin levels, a hormone which affects sleep and mood.
Signs and symptoms of SAD need to be taken seriously. As with other types of depression, if left untreated, it can lead to school or work problems, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor or mental health provider will conduct a thorough physical exam and medical history to rule out any medical issues or conditions that could cause symptoms of depression. To be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet the following criteria:
- You've experienced depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years, during the same season every year.
- The periods of depression have been followed by periods without depression.
- There are no other explanations for the changes in your mood or behavior.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy. There are also herbal remedies, supplements and mind-body techniques that are commonly used.
For more information
The first step is to call us and come in for an assessment. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare Counseling Centers are located throughout metropolitan Milwaukee. For more information on SAD and other mental health issues, call (414) 874-4560.