Seasonal Affective Disorder Definition
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a term used to describe episodic conditions of depression that occur seasonally and repeatedly. In addition to depression, SAD can also describe other affective complaints. For example mania or hypomania, which occurs seasonally.
Often, this condition appears in months where sun exposure is reduced. For example, in autumn or winter and improve again when spring arrives. However, this condition can also be found in the summer, where sun exposure is quite a lot, although this case is quite rare.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes
The cause of seasonal affective disorder is not yet fully understood. It is thought that there are various factors that contribute to the emergence of SAD. Some of these are psychological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Seasonal changes can lead to a lack of sun exposure, where the night becomes longer and the day is shorter. This can affect the human circadian rhythm which then affects the onset of SAD. Furthermore, deviations from this circadian rhythm can affect the production of the melatonin hormone in the body. This hormone affects a person’s sleep patterns and mood.
Genetic variation is thought to have contributed to the emergence of SAD. Differences have been found between the genetics of SAD sufferers and those who do not, especially in the 5-HTTLPR gene and the 5-HT2A gene.
Another opinion states that vitamin D deficiency also contributes to the emergence of SAD. Vitamin D also affects the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has an influence on mood.
Some of the risk factors thought to be associated with the appearance of SAD include:
- Family history of SAD or depression
- Have major depression or bipolar disorder
- The location of the residence is far from the equator.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
In most cases, SAD symptoms begin in late autumn or early winter and disappear as they enter sunny days in spring or summer. Although rare, there are also people who experience symptoms of SAD in the spring or summer. In both cases, the initial symptoms may be mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Here are the signs and symptoms of SAD:
- Feeling depressed most of the day and almost every day.
- Loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyed.
- Easily tired.
- Having problems with sleep.
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight.
- Feeling lethargic or restless.
- It’s hard to concentrate.
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty.
- Often think about death or sui**cide.
While symptoms specific to SAD that appear in winter, include:
- Sleeping too much.
- Changes in appetite, especially the desire to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates.
- Gaining weight.
- Fatigue or low energy levels.
While symptoms are specific to summer SAD, among others:
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
- Bad appetite.
- Weight loss.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosis
To diagnose someone with SAD, your doctor may ask about the following:
- Diet and sleep
- The effect of seasonal changes on thoughts and behavior
- Symptoms and their effects on everyday life
- Personal and family medical history that can affect the onset of depression.
Your doctor may also perform a brief physical exam.
SAD is quite difficult to diagnose because it bears similarities to some other types of depression. A person can be diagnosed with SAD if:
- Have symptoms of major depression
- Depression occurs at the same time each year, at least two years.
- The depression period is followed by the period without depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment
Efforts to overcome SAD can be done through several ways that include light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy.
The first is light therapy or phototherapy. In this therapy, the patient sits a few meters from a special light box so that the body is exposed to bright light. This is done for about 20 to 60 minutes each day, usually in the morning.
This therapy mimics outdoor natural light and causes changes in brain chemical compounds associated with mood. Light therapy usually starts working within a few days or weeks and provides low side effects. However, before buying this tool, be sure to consult a doctor first.
The second is with prescription medicines. According to NIMH, SAD is associated with the impaired serotonin activity. Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly used. Please note that all medications can have side effects. It’s best to talk to your doctor about the risks that may be posed by the use of the drug.
The third is psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy helps identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that make sufferers feel worse. In addition, patients also learn how to manage stress.