What is SAD?
SAD is the acronym commonly used to refer to seasonal affective disorder. Its very difficult to pinpoint statistics regarding seasonal affective disorder because its occurrence varies based on altitude as well as location. However, it is much more common for younger individuals to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, than it is for older individuals to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder mimic the symptoms of depression. These include, but are not limited to irritability, a feeling of hopelessness, loss of energy and interest, oversleeping, tiredness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight gain (due to carbohydrate cravings), difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from social situations, and anxiety. These symptoms are displayed in patterns: they appear at the onset of fall and winter, and last until springtime when the days get longer and warmer and the depression recedes (referred to by many as “hibernation.”)
What are the causes of SAD?
In the winter months in some regions of the globe, sunlight becomes scarce. Researchers have shown that seasonal affective disorder is directly linked to the light an individual is exposed to. The circadian rhythm, also known as the “biological clock” is affected by the change in light exposure. The decrease in light can alter the body’s ability to recognize the patterns of wakefulness and sleeping in relation to light and dark environments. Melatonin and serotonin production in the brain can be affected also by this decrease in sunlight. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, and controls sleep and wake cycles and serotonin acts as a chemical messenger transferring signals between nerve cells, and when a drop of serotonin levels occurs, it can affect and alter the person’s mood.
Who is more at risk for SAD?
Individuals who live at higher altitudes, or in areas that receive less sunlight in the winter months (such as Alaska and other northern regions) are at a much greater risk for being diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. Just as with many other disorders, physiological or psychological, family history can affect a persons likelihood of developing the disorder. It is speculated that one of the reasons women are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder is because women with small children are much more likely to remain isolated at home, caring for children during the winter months, however, studies focusing on women with careers, and women who stay at home with their children have not been performed adequately enough to draw any conclusions from.
How do I know if I have SAD?
There is no straightforward test that will determine if an individual is suffering from seasonal affective disorder. As stated before, seasonal affective disorder and depression are very similar, and display almost identical symptoms. The only way to find out more about your own unique situation is to pay your health care provider a visit and discuss the possibility of seasonal affective disorder.
What are the treatments for SAD?
Individuals suffering from seasonal affective disorder may benefit from full spectrum light therapy. This light therapy is thought to be affective because the main cause of seasonal affective disorder is linked to the lack of exposure to light during the winter months. Experts are unsure how this therapy works, and individuals should consult with their care provider before beginning light therapy. Some care providers may use medications, such as buproprion or other antidepressants to treat seasonal affective disorder, in combination with counseling.
What are antidepressants?
Antidepressants are psychiatric medications used to treat mood disorders. Most antidepressants work by having some kind of affect on serotonin levels, and may take anywhere from two to six weeks to reach their full effectiveness.
Are antidepressants safe?
Although many studies have been conducted on the subject of antidepressants, it is difficult to say what exactly is considered safe. The general consensus is that antidepressants should not be given to patients under the age of eighteen, due to an increased risk of suicide and withdrawal when medications are discontinued. Unfortunately, many health care professionals prescribe these medications to minors anyways.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Sad Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder