About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people who live in the northern latitudes experience the debilitating symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or winter blues. Some can muddle through the lethargy, fatigue and lack of motivation felt during autumn and winter. For those suffering from SAD, it is difficult to make it through the dark season. Over 25 years ago, mental health researchers showed that Winter Blues and SAD also called Seasonal Depression, could be treated with light therapy. Today, light treatment is the modality of preference by physicians for the treatment of SAD. About 10% of the population of northern countries suffer from SAD. The main signs are fatigue, excess sleeping, withdrawal, and carbohydrate craving during the fall and winter months. SAD is a form of depression that occurs mostly during the fall and winter months, when days shorten and sunlight decreases. One of the characteristics of this particular form of depression is its seasonal aspect. In many of the articles dealing with this subject, you will also find the expressions “winter depression” and “winter blues”. Night-shift workers or people who work or live in a poorly or badly lit place can also suffer from SAD, even during the summer. Usually, women tend to suffer from this type of depression more than men. Children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to the effects of SAD. The depressive symptoms appear more often during the fall months and tend to disappear come late winter or early spring.

The seasonal onset of this depression seems to occur in the late summer or fall, especially in northern latitudes, when the days grow shorter. It subsides in the Spring when the weather improves and the days grow longer. SAD symptoms include sluggishness, irritability, carbohydrate craving and reduced libido. It is important, however, to consider that the seasonality may be caused by other factors, notably psychological (eg. the return to school in the fall and the anticipation of summer vacation in the spring). For this reason, it is always a good idea to consult with a health professional. If you do not know of any, please e-mail or call us for our free referral to experienced clinicians in your area.

The magnitude of seasonal difficulties may vary from one person to another. For SAD sufferers, it is a relief to know that depression is no longer linked to a weakness of character, but to an alteration of our brain chemistry.

Many people treated by Dr Norman Rosenthal at the NIMH (National Institute Mental Health) in Maryland, USA have told how, prior to being diagnosed with SAD, they felt lazy, worthless, and immature. Just knowing that the disease has a name, a description and that there is an affordable and effective non-invasive treatment, is a relief in itself.

Consult With Your Physician

If you feel that you may be suffering from depression, you must consult a qualified health professional (SAD sufferers are not an exception). Although a self-diagnosis seems relatively easy to make, other conditions can be similar to SAD. These problems must be considered and eliminated before a SAD diagnosis is made.