Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) refers to episodes of depression that occur every year during fall or winter. Symptoms improve in spring and summer.
The disorder may begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more often in women than in men.
Most people with the "winter blahs" or "cabin fever" do not have SAD. People who live in places with long winter nights are not necessarily more likely to have SAD.
The cause of SAD is not known, but it is thought to be related to many factors, including:
A rare form occurs in the summer.
Symptoms usually build up gradually in the late autumn and winter months.
A visit to your health care provider will look for other causes of the symptoms and confirm the diagnosis. A psychological evaluation may be needed for more severe depression.
See also: Depression
As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective.
Taking long walks during the daylight hours and getting exercise can make the symptoms better. Keep active socially, even if it involves some effort.
Light therapy using a special lamp with a very bright fluorescent light (10,000 lux) to mimic light from the sun may also be helpful.
Symptoms commonly get better on their own with the change of seasons.
The outcome is good with continuous treatment, although some people have the disorder throughout their lives.
Seasonal affective disorder can sometimes progress to a major depressive syndrome.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Individuals who have had recurrent seasonal depression should speak with a mental health care professional to explore treatments.
Depression - winter; SAD