What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder: What is It?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a mood disorder that occurs at a specific time of the year and fully remits otherwise. It occurs mostly during the winter time and in its milder form is often referred to as the winter blues. People afflicted with the disorder usually note a change in their mood and behaviour around September or October. Their cheery dispositions return, after a long-term bout of the blues, in the early spring, or when the temperature begins to warm and days get longer.

The Winter Blues – Not Just a State of Melancholy

Some people, during the winter months, fall into a sort of hibernation, denoted by symptoms that reflect listlessness, indifference, and tiredness. In addition, other people trying to fight this winter depression can exhibit a laundry list of symptoms, including aching muscles, digestive disturbances, irritability, heart palpitations, overeating, insomnia, and even paranoia. Blame this state of flux on the disorder, SAD, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues.

How it All Begins

Each year, when the days of summer start to fade and the climate begins to grow cold and gray, people who are afflicted with this depression disorder start to exhibit winter blues symptoms. Suddenly, their level of energy starts to wane and some begin to eat foods that make them put on additional weight. In addition, some of the sufferers may have a hard time concentrating or they start to withdraw from their loved ones or friends.

How the Winter Depression Affects Productivity

This shift in behaviour and mood lasts during the long days of winter until spring begins to emerge again. Because SAD is associated with a lack of sunlight, people with the disorder who work in windowless offices or factories not only see a drop in their level of energy but in their productivity as well. People with SAD also sleep about 2 ½ to 3 hours longer each day than they do in the summertime. Individuals who don’t suffer from SAD generally sleep a little over 30 minutes longer in the winter than they do other times of the year.

Some Cases of SAD are more Severe than Others

People with SAD frequently suffer from weakened immune systems during the winter months as well and therefore are more susceptible to infections or more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia. When SAD symptoms start to subside in the spring, the patient is apt to go through a short period of hyperactivity.

Less severe symptomatology is noted in subsyndromal SAD sufferers – all which can be marked by overeating, excess sleep, or fatigue. However, individuals who are trying to beat the winter blues and have a full-fledged case of SAD often suffer from depressive episodes and irritability too.

Who is Affected by SAD?

SAD may happen at any time during a person’s life but generally occurs in younger adults. Often SAD suffers are comprised of women who are between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five. However, that doesn’t mean the condition doesn’t affect men profoundly too. Women just see their doctors more often about the complaint.

Read more about the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder