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Mayo Clinic: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Symptoms

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Major depression

Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression that comes and goes based on seasons. So symptoms of major depression may be part of SAD, such as:

Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Having low energy
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Irritability
Tiredness or low energy
Problems getting along with other people
Hypersensitivity to rejection
Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
Oversleeping
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

Depression
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Weight loss
Poor appetite
Agitation or anxiety
Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder

In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

When to see a doctor

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

By Mayo Clinic Staff