Feeling the blues this holiday season is rather normal, especially with all the rush that the holidays come with. But in some cases, it might not just be the blues anymore, it might be seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
What is SAD?
SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes depending on the season. It typically begins in the late fall or early winter, and goes away during spring and summer. To be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must meet the criteria for major depression, but the symptoms must coincide with the specific seasons for at least two years.
Some of these symptoms include feeling depressed for most of the day nearly every day, feeling hopeless or worthless, having no energy, sleep problems, having no interest in the things that one once liked, feeling sluggish, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts about death and suicide.
For SAD in the winter, overeating, hypersomnia, social withdrawal, craving for carbohydrates, and having low energy may be experienced along with the symptoms above, while those affected by the rarer SAD in the summer may experience insomnia, agitation, restlessness, poor appetite with weight loss, anxiety, and having episodes of violent behavior coinciding with the symptoms for major depression.
SAD is not considered as a separate disorder, but is a type of depression. One or a combination of light therapy, vitamin D, psychotherapy, and medication may be used to treat SAD.
The causes of SAD are still so far unknown, but research has found that those with SAD have trouble regulating serotonin, the key neurotransmitter for mood. They also tend to overproduce melatonin, which regulates sleep, and produce less vitamin D, which is believed to have a role in serotonin activity.
Women are actually four times more often diagnosed with SAD than men, while those living farther from the equator are also more likely to be diagnosed with SAD. In fact, only 1 percent of people in Florida get diagnosed with SAD, compared to the 9 percent of people in Alaska and New England experiencing SAD.
Younger people are also more at risk of experiencing SAD, and so are those with a family history of it, as well as those with bipolar disorder or depression.