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Seasonal Affective Disorder a.k.a Seasonal Depression

Updated on August 5, 2013
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Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter, summer, spring or autumn each year. Seasonal affective disorder is also known as SAD, winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal depression.

Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • difficulty waking up in the morning
  • morning sickness
  • a tendency to oversleep
  • a tendency to over eat, especially a craving for carbohydrates
  • lack of energy
  • difficulty concentrating on completing tasks,
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities

As a result, seasonal affective disorder leads to the depression, pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, and lack of pleasure.

Symptoms of Spring & Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

In addition to the symptoms above, those who suffer from spring and summer depression suffer from the following symptoms as well:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • social withdrawal
  • increased sex drive
  • suicide

Diagnosis

In order to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, four criteria of "Seasonal Pattern Specifier" must be met. In order to meet these criteria, a person must have

  • depressive episodes at a particular time of the year;
  • remissions or mania/hypomania at a characteristic time of year;
  • these patterns must have lasted two years with no nonseasonal major depressive episodes during that same period; and
  • these seasonal depressive episodes outnumber other depressive episodes throughout the patient's lifetime.

An example of light therapy, a popular treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
An example of light therapy, a popular treatment for seasonal affective disorder. | Source

Treatment

Treatment for winter-based seasonal affective disorder include

  • Light Therapy
    • Because winter-based seasonal affective disorder is believed to be caused in part by the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D from the sun light, light therapy is one of the first recommended treatments. The light provided by light boxes, which typically use fluorescent lights, is supposed to replicate the light from the sun. The mood of individuals with seasonal affective disorder can improve with as little as 20 minutes of bright light exposure.
  • Medication
    • Anti-depressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown effective for the treatment of seasonal effective disorder.
  • Ionized-Air Administration
    • Negative air ionization involves releasing charged particles into the sleep environment and has been found to be an effective treatment with a 47.9% improvement when the negative ions are in sufficient density.
  • Vitamin D
    • Winter based seasonal affective disorder is believed to be caused by a lack of Vitamin D due to a lack of sunlight. Vitamin D supplements have been found to be effective at treating seasonal affective disorder, particularly when used in conjunction with light box therapy.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
    • Cognitive-behavorial therapy is also known as talk therapy and has been shown to be affective treatment for seasonal effective disorder particularly when combined with other therapies such as light therapy or anti-depressant medications.

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    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I did not know about the diagnosis or the treatments for seasonal depressions. Very informative hub.

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