Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. While it’s more typical in the winter months, just because we’re moving into Spring doesn’t automatically mean we’ve escaped it. It can still affect a lot of people, sometimes when least expected.

What are the signs and symptoms?

SAD is not a separate disorder. It’s its own type of depression that seems to repeat regularly. To actually be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet the full criteria for major depression aligning with the specific seasons, and have that pattern for at least 2 years.

What do I look for?

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once loved
  • Sleep problems
  • Major changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

What do specific symptoms in the Summer look like?

  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of violent behavior

What people are generally more vulnerable to going through this?

  • Females (four-times more likely than in men)
  • Those living far north or south of the equator
  • Those with a family history
  • Those having depression or bipolar disorder
  • Young people (even reported in children and teens)

What causes SAD?

The casuses are unknown, however it can happen when the brain has a more difficult time regulating one of the key neurotransmitters controlling mood. It might be that people experiencing SAD are overproducing the hormone melatonin, or producing less Vitamin D. Either way it seems to be a brain chemical imbalance.

If you’re experiencing SAD or other forms of depression, or know someone who is, please call Jefferson Center at 303-425-0300. Our clinicians have experience working with people going through this and can help.

Thanks to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) for information on SAD.