Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with seasonal changes. The cause of this disorder typically comes from the difference in body hormones resulting from the change of season. This disorder can be classified into two categories: Fall & Winter SAD and Spring & Summer SAD. There are more than ten million affected patients per year in the United States. And it is more susceptible to women than men and to teenagers than adults.
The symptoms of SAD are very similar to typical depression, which include: feeling sad for most of the day and nearly every day during the season, feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty, having difficulty concentrating, and decreasing physical activities. Moreover, the symptoms also varied from various types of SAD. In fall & winter SAD, there are symptoms like oversleeping, craving for carbohydrates, gaining weight, or experiencing fatigue. While in spring & summer SAD, insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, and agitation are the more common symptoms.
There are three most common ways to be diagnosed with SAD: through the book Diagnostic and Statistical of Mental Disorders-the fifth edition (DSM-5), blood tests, or psychological examination. According to the DSM-5, one has to comply with more than half of the symptoms mentioned above and SAD has to cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Besides checking DSM-5, one can also do a blood test to test for SAD. The methodology of this testing is to check for things like anemia, thyroid, hormones, vitamin D, and calcium levels. The reason why to specifically check these things will be discussed in the latter section. Other methods like psychological examination can also be utilized. This method usually involves question-answer type tools to evaluate and assess the disorder.
When the season changes, the amount of daytime and nighttime changes. Our bodies would respond to this change by altering hormone levels. And here are some potential causes of SAD: insufficient vitamin D levels, reduced sunlight in fall and winter, changes in one’s circadian rhythm, and reduced serotonin and melatonin levels. All of these causes can lead to mood fluctuation and thus might cause one to feel sad and depressed.
Lastly, there are some treatments for SAD patients. For medicine, one can intake antidepressants. Therapies like light therapy and psychotherapy are also recommended for SAD patients. However, most importantly, one has to practice self-care constantly and frequently. Some practices include exercise, meditation, and sitting closer to windows to receive more sunlight at home.