Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that often begins during the fall, continuing through the winter before subsiding during the spring and summer seasons. Some cases of SAD, however, can follow an opposite schedule, occurring during the spring and summer and ending during the fall and winter.
Millions of people may potentially experience SAD without realizing they have this condition. People who experience SAD can present many symptoms typically associated with other forms of depression such as moodiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. SAD that occurs during the spring and summer is particularly associated with irritability and anxiety. Symptoms of both forms usually begin during young adulthood.
Several factors may contribute to your risk of developing SAD, including low serotonin levels, disrupted melatonin levels, changes in sunlight exposure, and family history. Additionally, people who experience bipolar disorder or major depression are at an increased risk of developing this disorder. SAD is also much more common in women than men, and is more frequently experienced by people living in northern regions that receive less sunlight during the winter.
SAD is often treated through a variety of approaches. Many people may experience improvement in symptoms from regular exercise and adjusted sleeping schedules that ensure adequate sleep and increased exposure to sunlight. Light boxes also often improve symptoms within days or week with few side effects.
People who experience severe symptoms associated with SAD or who also have a condition such as bipolar or major depressive disorder may require treatment through psychotherapy and medication. These can help you develop strong coping mechanisms, build healthy habits, and manage physiological factors that may contribute to your symptoms.
You can receive mental health care for SAD at Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Outpatient Psychiatric Clinic. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 670-5562. If you begin to contemplate suicide or self-harm, please dial 988 immediately to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.