Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is usually linked to changes in the seasons. For most people with this disorder, depressive symptoms begin in late autumn or early winter and subside during the spring and summer. Some people experience depression during the summer months, but this is much less common than winter depression. Short dark days and cold temperatures can make anyone wish for sunnier summer days, but seasonal affective disorder is more than just the winter blues. People with SAD say they sleep an extra 2.5 hours each night in the winter compared with the summer months. Those with the winter blues get an extra 1.7 hours of shuteye, and people who don’t have either of these conditions log a little over 40 extra minutes of sleep during the winter. The low moods and energy drain people experience can grow into a sense of emptiness or numbness that doesn’t dissipate. Eventually, it negatively impacts the way you think, how you feel, and how you act and can get in the way of daily living.
Who is Affected by SAD?
In the U.S., approximately 14% of adults experience the winter blues, but only an estimated 6% of Americans are affected by SAD. About 10% of people with SAD experience it during the summer months. However, experts suggest the number could be higher since the condition often goes unreported and undiagnosed. For example, people with SAD who have low levels of thyroid hormone may attribute their symptoms of lethargy and lack of motivation to hypothyroidism, so their seasonal affective disorder may go undetected. (See below for more information about who is at risk for SAD.)
What are the Symptoms?
People with SAD may experience many of the typical symptoms of depression, including persistant negative mood, lost of interest in pleasurable activities, feeling of worthlessness or sleeping too much or too little. Also, see below for longer list of symptoms.
What Causes SAD?
Although the scientific community has yet to identify the exact causes of SAD, it is believed that it may be related to neurotransmitter issues and neurohormone issues, as well as to lower levels of vitamin D due to reduced exposure to sunshine in winter months. With summer-onset SAD, longer days and rising temperatures and humidity levels may play a role. (See below for more information on the causes of SAD.)
Mental health conditions that are commonly seen with SAD include:
Substance use disorders
TAL CMHC offers beneficial services that encourage insight, self-reflection, and healthy coping mechanisms. Our therapists reinforce positive emotions, placing emphasis on positive behaviors and the connection these behaviors have with feelings.