Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own — you may have seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you are like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
Seasonal affective disorder is a cyclic, seasonal condition. This means that signs and symptoms come back and go away at the same time every year. Usually, SAD symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. While some people may have the opposite patter and become depressed during the onset of spring or summer, in either case problems may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Symptoms of winter-onset Seeasonal affective disorder include: depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawl, weight gain, oversleeping, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating. Symptoms of summer-onset SAD include: anxiety, insomnia, irritability, agitation, weight loss, poor appetite, and increased sex drive. Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medications. Addressing the problem can help keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
While it is normal to have some days when you feel down, you should contact your doctor if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t seem to get motivated to do the activities you normally enjoy. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.