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Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms: What You Need to Know

Graphic showing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

The change in seasons causes a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It starts and ends at about the same period each year. SAD symptoms begin in the fall and last through the winter months, draining your energy and making you cranky. These symptoms go away in the spring and summer. SAD less frequently results in depression in the spring or early summer and clears up in the fall or winter.

SAD is a form of depression with symptoms lasting roughly 4 to 5 months per year. Therefore, in addition to the signs of depression, SAD has some unusual symptoms that are different for winter and summer months. The treatment options for SAD include medicines, psychotherapy, and bright light therapy (phototherapy).

Adults in America experience SAD in the millions, but many may be unaware of it. SAD affects women significantly more frequently than it does males. It is dominant in people who live further north, where the winter bright light hours are fewer. For instance, Alaska or New England residents may have a higher risk of developing SAD than residents of Florida.

What’s Seasonal Affective Disorder?

As fall arrives, a change in the seasons brings a kind of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Many people experience it for a brief time when they feel depressed. Mood disorders might start and stop with the change of the seasons. When the shorter days come in the fall and winter, people begin to feel “low.” They usually feel better in the spring when the days become longer.

These low mood swings can be serious and impact how someone feels, thinks, and goes about everyday activities. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be present in you if you frequently observe substantial changes in your mood and behavior. Before fading in the brighter spring days, this seasonal sadness develops stronger in the late fall or early winter. Seasonal depression is another name for SAD because of having depressive symptoms.

The “winter blues” are a minor form of SAD. It’s typical to have some melancholy throughout the winter, but full SAD goes beyond this. Unlike the winter blues, SAD impacts your daily life, including how you feel and think. Therapy can help you get through this challenging period.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD symptoms start in late fall or early winter and disappear throughout the long days of spring and summer months. Less frequently, individuals following the reverse pattern experience symptoms in the spring or summer. In either instance, symptoms could be moderate at first and worsen as the season progresses.

The symptoms of (SAD) are similar to the symptoms of depression, except they recur at a specific time of year. SAD manifests differently in each person, as does its severity. Some people may experience moderate symptoms, while others may experience severe ones that significantly impact their daily lives.

The American Psychiatric Association formally categorizes SAD as a major depressive illness with seasonal changes.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feelings of depression, or down for most of the day
  • Losing interest in activities you like
  • Feeling weak and sluggish
  • Problems with sleep
  • Loss of interest
  • Cravings for carbohydrates, overeating, and weight loss
  • Having trouble staying focused
  • Having a sense of worthlessness or remorse
  • Thinking that I don’t want to live
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Use of drugs or alcohol for comfort

Much like depression symptoms, the severity of SAD symptoms can vary from person to person. It depends on genetic predisposition and geographic location. Many people often experience moderate symptoms at the start of the fall and gradually worsening symptoms through the coldest days of winter. When you feel normal and healthy once more, it means the symptoms are less harmful.

Fall and Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter and fall depression symptoms that are particular to SAD include things like:

  • Heart disease problems
  • Oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite, particularly a desire for foods heavy in carbs
  • Gaining weight
  • Poor energy or fatigue

Spring and Summer SAD

Seasonal affective disorder with summer onset, often known as summer depression, may present with the following symptoms:

  • Physical problems
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Higher irritation

You should tolerate these symptoms for two or more consecutive years to receive a clinical diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder. It’s time to get assistance if your depression feels overpowering and negatively affects your life, regardless of when or how long your symptoms have been present.

The Summertime Experience of SAD

SAD patients experienced the end of major depressive episodes by the start of spring. Compared to the melancholy phase in the fall and winter, they saw spring and summer as positive opposites and felt much better in the summer.

One group of patients was able to stay away from any negative thoughts of a subsequent depressive episode throughout the summer. The other group constantly worried about the possibility of a new depressive episode. This phenomenon harmed their quality of life throughout symptom-free periods, particularly at the end of the summer.

Patients who had gone through serious depression episodes last winters were already afraid of experiencing another episode this summer. Some people detected signs of impending depression with the onset of a fall, such as weariness or a lack of enthusiasm.

Ask Your Doctor about SAD

It’s common to experience depressive feelings occasionally. But if you consistently feel depressed and lack the will to engage in your favorite activities, speak with your health care provider. This is particularly crucial if your appetite and sleep patterns have changed. You use alcohol comfort, or if you feel hopeless or consider suicide.

Some effective treatments can benefit numerous SAD sufferers. They can be used separately or in combination and fall into the following four categories:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Vitamin D

FAQs

Can people get seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the summer?

A pattern of significant depression episodes known as seasonal affective disorder comes on and goes off as the seasons change. Major depression or bipolar disorders exhibit it.

Winter depression is characterized by regular periods of depression, hypersomnia, and increased appetite with a yearning for carbohydrates. Summer depression is an unusual variant of SAD that affects some people. The late spring or early summer is when it begins, and the fall is when it ends. It occurs less frequently than winter-specific seasonal affective disorder.

How common is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Winter depression, the most well-known type of SAD, is characterized by regular periods of depression, hypersomnia, and weight gain that start in the fall and last through the winter. A healthcare provider treats seasonal affective disorder in a variety of ways.

SAD affects five percent of adults in the United States. It typically begins in young people (usually between the ages of 18 and 30). Recent studies could not find why women are more impacted by SAD than men. A milder form of the winter blues may affect 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans.

What can you do to avoid seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is more common in people with bipolar disorder. Mania episodes in some bipolar patients may be connected to a particular season. For instance, spring and summer trigger mania symptoms or a milder type of mania. They could also go through periods of depression in the fall and winter.

You should get the sleep you need to feel refreshed, but watch out for oversleeping. Take part in an exercise program or some other type of consistent physical activity. Make wholesome selections for both meals and snacks. These activities are helpful to avoid seasonal affective disorder.

Who is most affected by seasonal affective disorder?

Major depressive disorder (MDD) with a seasonal pattern is also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A sort of depression is the result of the change in seasons. The early fall or winter is usually when symptoms first appear.

The signs of SAD usually start in the late fall or early winter and last till the spring. However, other periods of the year can also bring about symptoms. Additionally, you might not always experience the condition.

More commonly than men, women are affected. Most people benefit from medication, therapy, or a combination. Without a treatment plan, depression can last for days, weeks, or even years. Most clinically depressed patients who seek treatment see improvement, typically within weeks.

Treat Your Depression with Indiana Center for Recovery

A kind of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) results from a change in seasons. Before fading in the brighter spring days, this seasonal sadness develops stronger in the late fall or early winter. It’s common to feel a little sad during the colder months, and you can also get a mild form of SAD known as the “winter blues.” 

Dt affects your life routine and priorities differently. In case of a prolonged duration, you should seek help from a qualified health professional. The Indiana Center for Recovery is here to help you to reduce the side effects of depression and SAD. 

We offer various services, such as addiction treatment, detox, and residential treatment. If you’re struggling and not feeling well, contact us at (844) 650-0064.