What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?


Have you ever wondered why the weather makes you or some people sad or depressed, moody, less energetic or motivated, or want to hibernate? It may be due to an actual condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of recurring depression that some people suffer during the colder months due to the seasonal pattern of shorter hours of daylight and often gloomy weather.

SAD typically affects people during the fall and winter months. However, the symptoms can persist well into spring until sunshine becomes more prominent, depending on what region of the country a person lives in.

For example, people who live in the Northwest certain parts of the South and other regions where they experience an abundance of cloudy weather often suffer from SAD due to less exposure to sunlight.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who have bipolar disorder have an increased risk of seasonal affective disorder.

At least five percent of Americans experience the “syndromal” form of SAD, where the symptoms severely impact a person’s ability to function. Roughly 15% more Americans experience the “subsyndromal” form of SAD, where their symptoms may not be intense or severe enough for a diagnosis.

According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of the book “Winter Blues,” says that 1 and 5 people in the US have some trouble with winter.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

A person suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may exhibit any or all of the following signs and symptoms: Low energy, feeling sluggish or listless, feeling sad or down or depressed most of the day and/or every day, experiencing feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt, having suicidal thoughts, sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, experiencing cravings for carbohydrates, over-eating, and weight gain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

When should you see a doctor for SAD?

While it’s normal for people to have some days of feeling down or low energy, especially during winter, there are signs to look for that indicate it’s time to visit a medical professional.

When low energy and low motivation and/or down, depressed feelings linger for days, which could be warning signs of seasonal affective disorder. Look for other signals, such as the inability for you or someone to engage in activities you/they usually enjoy. Also, look for changes in sleep patterns and appetite. Lastly, if you or someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek medical help immediately.