Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also sometimes called seasonal depression or winter depression, is a form of depression that begins and ends at about the same time every year. For most people, the symptoms usually occur through the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and improve with the arrival of spring. Some people experience SAD in the spring or summer, but this is much less common.
People with SAD experience a shift in their circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) as seasons change and there are less hours of daylight which can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. For this reason, SAD is more common in people who live further from the equator. SAD typically starts between the ages of 18 and 30, but it can occur at any age.
Symptoms of SAD can include losing interest in activities that once brought enjoyment, sleeping too much, feeling sad or listless, having low energy or feeling sluggish, overeating and weight gain, craving carbohydrates, feeling hopeless or worthless, having a difficult time focusing, and having thoughts of suicide. Spring and summer SAD may have different symptoms, like weight loss and poor appetite, agitation and anxiety, trouble sleeping and increased irritability.
It can be difficult to diagnose SAD because other mental disorders share common symptoms. To be thorough, a doctor may do a physical exam and ask in depth questions about health, order a psychological evaluation with a mental health professional, and order lab tests to rule out other issues.
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is generally the first treatment of choice for SAD and involves sitting a few feet away from a special light box that mimics natural outdoor light within the first hour of waking each day. Light therapy appears to help change the brain chemicals linked to mood in people with SAD. Talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are also used to treat SAD.
Bio-Touch is a gentle, touch-based therapy that has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of stress. It is a powerful complement to any other medical or alternative therapies for SAD.
The information presented here is for educational purposes only. Medical advice is neither offered nor implied. Please consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.