Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is associated with episodes of depression that appear to be related to sunlight variations during the different seasons. As the seasons change, there is a shift in people’s “internal biological clocks” or circadian rhythms.
Anyone can get SAD, but it is more common in:
• People who live in areas where winter days are very short
• People between the ages of 15 and 55
• People who have a close relative with SAD
Students new to the Mid-Atlantic area may not be used to the weather and lack of sunlight in the winter months. They may experience SAD symptoms.
SAD is believed to be caused by a lack of sunlight. The lack of light may also affect serotonin levels, which can affect mood.
Because of the reduced light during the winter months, December, January, and February tend to be the most difficult months for people suffering from SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of seasonal depression.
• Feeling moody
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Craving carbohydrates
• Gaining weight
• Sleeping more
It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose SAD since its symptoms are so similar to non-seasonal depression. Once diagnosed, SAD is commonly treated with antidepressants, counseling, and/or light therapy.
There are two types of light therapy:
• Bright light treatment. For this treatment, you sit in front of a "light box" for half an hour or longer, usually in the morning.
• Dawn simulation. For this treatment, a dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep, and it gets brighter over time, like a sunrise.
If you experience unexplained feelings of depression, especially during the winter months, make an appointment at the Counseling and Psychiatric Services office (CAPS).
References: WebMD and Mayo Clinic.
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