Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depressive disorder that occurs only at certain times of the year usually in the winter. Also known as winter depression or winter blues, SAD can cause mood changes that begin as the amount of daylight shortens. These mood changes are not related to obvious stress-causing events, such as seasonal unemployment.

As with other depressive disorders, SAD is more common in women than in men. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually does not start in people under 20 years of age.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of major depression

  • Feelings of extreme sadness or emptiness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Loss of concentration
  • Loss of interest in work or pleasurable activities
  • Increase in sleep
  • Increase in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Aches and pains, not linked to a specific illness

Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosis

No single laboratory test or series of tests are available to detect seasonal affective disorder. Your health care professional may refer you to a mental health provider, who will make the diagnosis from your history of symptoms, current signs and symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed after an individual experiences symptoms for two or more years.

Treatment For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a depressive condition that may worsen if not treated. Psychotherapy, medication and light therapy (phototherapy) or a combination of all can be effective therapy for seasonal affective disorder. The effectiveness of light therapy for treating SAD may be linked to how light therapy makes up for lost sunlight exposure and help resets the body's internal clock. It involves sitting in front of a bright, full-spectrum light box which mimics natural outdoor light.

CHI Health Psychiatric Associates, with offices in Omaha and surrounding areas, has highly-trained mental health providers who can address the needs of those who suffer from self-harm. 

If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, call (402) 717-HOPE.