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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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Seasonal affective disorder facts

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a kind of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the hours of daylight grow shorter during the fall and winter months, but it may occur during the summer for some individuals.
  • The incidence of seasonal affective disorder increases in people who are living farther away from the equator.
  • Although there is no specific diagnostic test for the illness, it is understood that since it is a form of depression, the symptoms for this disorder are those of depressive episodes.
  • Seasonal affective disorder seems to be the result of inadequate exposure to bright light during the winter months.
  • Light therapy, talk therapy, medication and changes in biorhythms (chronotherapy) are often used treatments for seasonal affective disorder.
  • Lifestyle changes that can help decrease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include increasing time spent outdoors, more physical exercise, and maintaining healthy eating habits.
  • Persons who are treated for seasonal affective disorder in a timely way tend to recover well. If not, complications of this illness are similar to those of other kinds of depression, including increased risk of suicide.
  • Attempts to prevent future episodes of seasonal affective disorder using psychotherapy or light therapy have inconsistent results, but preventive medication treatment is thought to have promise.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), formally referred to as recurrent depression with seasonal pattern, is a type of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected people react adversely to the decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress. It is important to note that although seasonal affective disorder usually presents in the fall and winter there are those who suffer from this condition during the summer instead of, or in addition to, during the fall or winter.

Seasonal affective disorder has not been long recognized as an official diagnosis. The term first appeared in print in 1985. Seasonal affective disorder is also sometimes colloquially called winter depression, winter blues, or the hibernation reaction.

The incidence of seasonal affective disorder increases in people who are living farther away from the equator. Statistics on seasonal affective disorder in the United States include that this disorder occurs in 1% to 10% of adults and is dependent on geographical location. Seasonal affective disorder is less common where there is snow on the ground. Seasonal affective disorder is about four times more common in women than men, and the average age of people when they first develop this illness is 23 years of age. People of all ages can develop seasonal affective disorder.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/31/2016


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