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  • The Mood Disorders Program

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • SADDoes the change in seasons have you feeling blue? You may be one of 10 million Americans who have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that occurs in relation to the seasons.

    Though many people experience a case of "cabin fever" or the "winter blahs" during the colder months, seasonal affective order is different. SAD may begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and like other forms of depression, it occurs more frequently in women than in men.

    The cause of SAD is not known, but it is thought to be related to numerous factors, including:

    • Ambient light
    • Body temperature
    • Hormone regulation

    Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. For most people with SAD, symptoms start in September or October and end in April or May. Symptoms of SAD include:

    • Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
    • Carbohydrate cravings
    • Decreased interest in work or other activities
    • Depression that starts in fall or winter
    • Increased appetite with weight gain
    • Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
    • Lack of energy
    • Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
    • Social withdrawal

    A visit to your health care provider will help you look for other causes of the symptoms and confirm the diagnosis. A psychological evaluation may be needed for more severe depression.

    As with other types of depression, antidepressant medications and talk therapy can be effective. Light therapy using a special lamp to mimic light from the sun may also be helpful. Symptoms commonly get better on their own with the change of seasons.