SAD or just sad?
feels a little melancholy when the days are short and cold. For some people,
seasonal change brings with it something more serious than the blues: seasonal
affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that can be debilitating.
And daylight savings time may not help, since darker mornings—in the fall or
spring—are particularly difficult for those with SAD.
Mild forms of SAD are believed to affect as many as 20% of people in the United
States. If you think you might be one of them, view this slideshow to learn
more about the signs of this disorder.
SAD is a
form of depression, and it shares
most of the same symptoms. The two most common symptoms of depression are
feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and losing interest in activities—such as
socializing—that you normally find pleasurable.
If you experience these symptoms every day for at least two weeks, it’s a sign
of depression. If you feel this way only during the fall and winter, and if
these symptoms disappear during the rest of the year, it may be a sign of SAD.
(For more information, see Is It
Clinical Depression or Just the Blues?)
Sleepiness and fatigue
with SAD tend to feel the need to sleep more during the wintertime—sometimes a
lot more. In one study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in
1994, patients at a SAD clinic averaged about 7.5 hours of sleep in the summer,
8.5 hours in the spring and fall, and nearly 10 hours in the winter.
Just because you’re sleeping more doesn’t mean you'll feel rested, however.
Other research has shown that people with SAD experience more insomnia and sleep disturbances, and are more
prone to nodding off at work.
and irritability are common—yet often
overlooked—symptoms of depression and SAD. Research suggests that people with
SAD are significantly more irritable than healthy individuals. They may also be
more prone to anger than people with regular (nonseasonal) depression.
A 2006 study that compared groups of people with active SAD and regular
depression found that more than 40% of the people in the SAD group experienced
sudden fits of inappropriate anger, compared to just 29% in the other group.
Those with SAD experienced 19 of these "anger attacks" a month, on
depression in general, SAD can increase appetite in some people. Sixty-five
percent of people with the disorder report being hungrier during the colder,
The voracious appetite that sometimes accompanies SAD may be a biological
response to a seasonal drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated
with mood and helps to control hunger.
Though it can help you feel better temporarily, eating more—and being cooped
up—during the winter can really pack on the pounds: Nearly 75% of people with
SAD gain weight.
the reasons that people with SAD tend to gain weight is that the disorder can
produce a strong craving for complex carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. (In
fact, 7 out of 10 people with SAD experience this symptom.)
Gorging on carbohydrates causes the levels of an amino acid called tryptophan
to rise in the brain. This in turn causes the release of serotonin, which
boosts mood. In effect, people with SAD use carbohydrates as a kind of
medication—and a bigger waistline is a common side effect.
can make you feel sad and alone, but it also compromises how well your brain
works. The condition has been shown to affect a range of mental processes,
including concentration, speaking ability, and memory.
A 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that this so-called cognitive
impairment can be every bit as bad in people with SAD as it is in people with
nonseasonal depression. One woman who participated in the study—whose symptoms
qualified for SAD, but not major depression—reported that she was having
difficulty remembering names and appointments, and was easily distracted.
Loss of interest in sex
doesn’t exactly make you feel sexy. A loss
of interest in sex is a common
symptom among people with SAD and depression alike.
But this only tends to be true among people who experience SAD in the fall and
winter. If the disorder appears in the spring and summer—a much rarer condition
sometimes called “summer depression” or “reverse SAD”—some of the symptoms tend
to be the opposite of winter SAD. And one of the hallmarks of summer depression
is an increased sex drive.
Read full article on Health.com
[top] [back to news]