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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Symptoms  

 

Health experts call SAD a cyclic, seasonal condition. This means that the symptoms of SAD appear at certain times 

during the year. At another, almost appointed time in the year wane and eventually disappear completely.

Depending on your geographic location, you may notice the initial symptoms appear in latter part of autumn or in the early months of winter.  As the temperature warms and the days get longer, these symptoms eventually fade – even if they are left untreated in the intervening months.

There are instances though of people who display the opposite pattern of depression.  They develop a seasonal depression with the onset of spring and summer only to have them fade when autumn comes.

Those affected with the fall and winter version of SAD display symptoms such as depression, hopelessness, difficulty in concentrating and processing information.  They may also be more anxious than usual and exhibit a loss of energy.  Along with these signs these individuals may also gain weight in the winter months, as they discover they have a craving for foods rich in carbohydrates.

Socially, some individuals affected with the fall and winter version of SAD, may discover that they are more withdrawn than usual, not caring to make contact with friends, families or any social obligations. Many with SAD also complain of sleeping for longer periods of time

They symptoms associated with the spring and summer version of sad, while similar, do have some differences.  The most noticeable differences are found in the patterns of sleeping and eating.  Those who find they’re depressed in the spring and summer discover they’re not very interested in food and possess a poor appetite.  As a consequence they experience a weight loss.  They also discover that they have sleep problems some severe enough to be described as insomnia. Other symptoms of spring and summer SAD include anxiety, irritability, a noticeable display of agitation and an increased sex drive.

In addition to these two types of seasonal depression, the medical community has also identified what the medical community calls reverse SAD. The name is very much an apt description of the disorder.  Instead of developing a seasonal depression, those affected with reverse SAD develop a seasonal mania or hypomania.  This is a persistent elevated mood, accompanied with increased social activity and hyperactivity.  These individuals also display a degree of enthusiasm that is disproportionate to the situation. 

To diagnose seasonal affective disorder, health care practitioners will give you a thorough psychological evaluation.  This may include questions about your mood, changes in your thoughts and behaviors as the seasons change as well as your lifestyle and your specific social situation.  These professionals will also ask you about your patterns of sleeping and eating. You may also need to undergo a physical examination to rule out any underlying physical problems that may be causing either the depression or the mania.

Even with all this care, health care practitioners may still have difficulty diagnosing the disorder.  Other types of depression or mental health issues may have similar symptoms to SAD.  Basically, diagnosing SAD depends on a number of factors.  The health care practitioner must find that you’ve experienced these symptoms for two consecutive years – during the same season.  You periods of depression must be followed by periods where you display no depression.  And finally, your health care practitioner must determine that there are no other explanations for the fluctuations in your mood and your behavior.

 

 

 


Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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Greg Cryns
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