Seasonal Affective Disorder

Last Updated: October 21, 2018

Definition - What does Seasonal Affective Disorder mean?

Seasonal affective disorder (commonly referred to as SAD) is a type of depression that is closely connected to the change in the seasons of the year, and likely the amount of daylight a person is exposed to. Because of seasonal changes in daylight amounts, this disorder most often strikes in the late fall and in winter. Seasonal affective disorder is also called seasonal depression or winter depression. However, seasonal affective disorder can strike in the bright summer months in some cases.

WorkplaceTesting explains Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is a type of depression. In order to be diagnosed with SAD, a person must have major depression coinciding with a specific season for at least two years. Major depression symptoms include feeling depressed most of a day and nearly every day, feeling hopeless or worthless, having low energy, losing interest in previously enjoyed activities, having sleep issues, changes in appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty concentrating, and sometimes thoughts of suicide or death. There are specific symptoms related to both winter and summer seasonal affective disorder that combine with the symptoms of major depression. For winter SAD, symptoms include having low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, craving carbohydrates, and social withdrawal. Although less frequent, summer SAD symptoms include poor appetite and weight loss, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, anxiety and episodes of violent behavior.

There are several different mechanisms that may play a role in the development of SAD. These can include a lack of vitamin D and problems with serotonin utilization. Risk factors for SAD include being a young adult, living farther from the equator, having and increased melatonin level, and being female. Treatments for SAD include traditional depression medications as well as light therapy and vitamin D supplements.

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