Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression linked to the changing seasons. CAS begins and ends at approximately the same times each year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in spring or early summer.
In most cases, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder appear in late fall or early winter and disappear during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less often, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms can start mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Signs and symptoms of SAD can include:
- Feeling down all day, every day
- Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
- have little energy
- have sleep problems
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- feeling sluggish or restless
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
The fall and winter TAS
Symptoms specific to winter SAD, sometimes called winter depression, can include:
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods
- Weight gain
- Fatigue or low energy consumption
- The spring and summer TAS
Symptoms specific to summer seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, can include:
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
- bad appetite
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Common causes of SAD
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. But here are a few factors that may come into play:
Your biological clock (circadian rhythm).
Reduced levels of sunlight in fall and winter can cause winter SAD. This decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to depressive feelings.
A drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, may play a role in SAD. A reduction in sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which can trigger depression.
The change of seasons can disrupt the balance of the body’s melatonin level, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men. And SAD occurs more frequently in young adults than in older people.
Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:
People with SAD may be more likely to have relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
Have major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you already have depression.
Live far from the equator. SAD seems to be more common in people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to less sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.
Take the signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to bigger problems if left untreated. It can be:
- Social withdrawal
- School or work problems
- Substance addiction
- Other mental health conditions like anxiety or eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
TAS: how to get out of it
As a first resort, get a light therapy lamp and stay in front, 30 cm away, for at least 30 minutes a day. Even if your energy level is low, do not neglect a daily physical activity of at least 30 minutes. A simple walk is enough, gardening, picking up autumn leaves in the garden… no need to force yourself to do more. If nothing changes, consult a Naturopath or a doctor who will first be able to give you appropriate lifestyle advice without immediately recommending medication. Good measures can also help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get worse.