What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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 Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you know that the climate can change your mood? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of major depressive disorder that occurs in the winter months. It is sometimes referred to as the winter blues. You may have seasonal affective disorder if you have the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feel grumpy, anxious or moody
  • Crave carbohydrates and eat them too.
  • Sleep more, but you still feel tired.
  • Have trouble focusing or concentrating

In order to have seasonal affective disorder, you have to experience these symptoms for two consecutive winter months. During the summer, you do not experience any type of depression symptom.

Who Gets Seasonal Affective Disorder?

People who live in northern states are more likely to be affected by seasonal affective disorder. One study shows that 2% of people who live in the sunshine state, Florida have seasonal affective disorder while 10% of the citizens of New Hampshire show signs of SAD. The disorder is also more common in:

  • People who are between the ages of 15 and 55. As you get older, the chances of you developing SAD for the first time decreases.
  • Women
  • People who have a close relative who is suffering for seasonal affective disorder.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are three likely causes of SAD.

  • Melatonin Levels

    SAD is most likely related to the changes in the level of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a chemical that plays a role in sleep and your mood. Melatonin is only released during dark periods. People who are diagnosed with SAD show greater than normal changes in their melatonin levels.

  • Serotonin Levels

    When sunlight is reduced, it causes a drop in serotonin. A lowering of your serotonin levels can affect your mood and may result in SAD.

  • Your Internal Clock

    Your internal clock or your biological clock can become disrupted by the reduction of sunlight in the fall and winter months. Your biological clock controls your sleep and awake pattern and other circadian rhythms.

Photo : FLICKR/ Helga Weber

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