Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Most people with SAD first experience symptoms in the fall which continue through the winter months. Symptoms of SAD include irritability, tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with others, hypersensitivity to rejection, heavy feelings in the arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes, cravings for foods high in carbohydrates and weight gain.

Some factor the body’s production of melatonin in those months as a major cause of SAD. “It’s really what our natural sleep hormone is and it decreases when it’s light outside. So, when you don’t have the regular light exposure your melatonin production gets off cycle and it impairs sleep,” said Dr. Christie Cooper-Lehki. “It doesn’t cause people to get very drowsy, very tired what it does is kind of help you relax a little bit, get into more of a sleep mode and fall asleep easier.”

Approximately a half million people in the United States suffer from winter SAD. Approximately 75 percent of sufferers are women. Most sufferers experience it first during early adulthood while older adults are less likely to experience it. SAD can also occur in children and adolescents.

“I think of this as kind of normal. This is something that happens due to our environment,” said Cooper-Lehki. “This one is really pretty simple to treat, to do something about. If you know you have other risk factors, say a history of depression in the past or a family history of depression, if your parents or your siblings have depression, you’re more at risk for this even if it was a different kind of depression.”


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