Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Mental Disorder

Overview of Disorder

  • The disorder typically begins in the Fall and ends in the Spring. But it could be just the opposite.
  • It is a state of mind blamed on cold, dark winter.
  • People that have this disease are typically very depressed, preoccupied, anxious, irritable, slow, disconnected,and sometimes violent.
  • The episodes experienced by a person with SAD correspond with the seasons.

Who SAD Affects

  • 6% of Americans have SAD, 80% are women.
  • Children who are affected most likely have a close relative affected by it.
  • It's most likely to affect snowbound city dwellers, or those in the upper latitudes, who don't do much or are disabled.
  • SAD typically runs in families with related psychological disorders. It is inherited to some degree.
  • SAD is more common in women between puberty and menopause because hormones do play a role.

What Causes SAD

  • SAD is a reaction to the biological effects of light on the body.
  • Melatonin and serotonin has a role in the circadian rhythm, that helps keep track of season changes. The two may have a role in SAD. Melatonin is secreted at night, it is suppressed by light. Serotonin secretion declines during winter, it abnormally declines in people with SAD.
  • The reduced sunlight triggers the change in chemistry of the brain, resulting in this sad feeling.
  • The winter light signals the brain to reduce concentration of serotonin, some people are more sensitive to this change than others are.

Symptoms of SAD

  • People with SAD tend to excessively sleep, socially withdraw themselves from others, feel depressed, overeat, and gain weight.
  • People with SAD tend to eat a lot of carbohydrates. Carbs cause serotonin levels to rise, some researchers believe SAD patients are unconsciously medicating themselves.

Treatment of SAD

  • SAD cannot be prevented, but it can be treated.
  • Phototherapy is where you sit under special lights for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The lights feel like the sun hitting you, making you feel better.
  • Some people with SAD move to places with more hours of daylight during the winter.
  • When spring comes along, or a change in scene occurs it usually relieves the symptoms of SAD.