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Seasonal depression is a mood disorder that can debilitate a person to the point that they are unable to function properly. It is a type of depression that is directly related to the winter months when there are more hours of darkness. Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, it normally begins when the days become shorter and the evenings longer. This is generally around the time that Daylight Savings Time comes to an end, however, it can begin in the early winter as well. Symptoms continue throughout the winter and taper off in the spring, typically when days, and daylight, are longer, which is around the start of Daylight Savings Time. People who are diagnosed with SAD will have experienced symptoms at the same time of year for at minimum two consecutive years. Often it is mistaken with the so-called "winter blues," however, SAD is a much more intense and serious condition that requires medical intervention.

People with SAD experience symptoms that start mildly and increase in intensity as the season progresses. Symptoms include almost daily feelings of depression, decreased energy, lack of interest, and agitation. People may also suffer from feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and have thoughts of committing suicide. Because most cases of SAD occur in the winter, people may notice a change in their appetite. This change finds them craving more carbohydrates and they may experience weight gain. In addition, people with winter SAD may also find themselves oversleeping yet still feeling tired and lacking energy. Less often, there are people who experience spring or summer-onset SAD. This is known as summer depression and it is believed to be associated with longer days and higher temperatures. Symptoms associated with summer depression find people lacking an appetite, losing weight, and having difficulty sleeping. When people are not properly treated for SAD, regardless of the season, they may experience a marked increase in their symptoms. A person may begin to withdraw from social interactions and may begin to have problems such as increased absenteeism at work or at school. They may even begin to experience increased anxiety or additional mental health disorders. The risk of self-harm may also increase and the person may be at risk for suicidal behaviors and thoughts.

People who are at greatest risk of winter SAD are women and younger adults, but both men and older adults can be diagnosed with it as well. Causes include changes in one's melatonin levels, a decrease in their serotonin, which affects mood levels, or a disruption in one's circadian rhythm, which is a person's internal clock. An individual's chances of developing SAD increases if there is a family history or if they currently suffer from depression. The distance from the equator may also increase the risk of developing this mood disorder. It is more common in individuals who live further from the equator to the north or south.

Causes and Effects

Symptoms And Signs

Average Length Of Depression

Who Is More Commonly Affected By It

Article written by Lexi Westingate
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