Saturday, 1 December 2007


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that usually come and go at the same times every year. Sad symptoms appear during winter and go away during the sunnier days of summer. But some people have the opposite pattern, developing what is known as Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSAD) with the start of spring or summer. SAD symptoms may include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, oversleeping, appetite changes, wight gain, and difficulty in concentrating among others.

Causes and Risks

The causes of SAD are still unknown and debatable. Genetics, age, and most importantly the body's chemical makeup all play important roles.

Circadian rhythm
Some say that reduced level of sunlight in winter may disrupt the circadian rhythm in certain people. The circadian rhythm is a physiological process that helps letting you know when to sleep or wake and disrupting it could cause depression.

Others say that melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that is produced at night, causes SAD because longer winter nights could increase the production of melatonin and result in oversleeping and tiredness.

Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, a natural brain chemical that affects mood, and may play a role in leading to depression.

SAD is more common among young adults older than 20, and it's diagnosed more often in women, but men may have more severe symptoms. Factors that may increase the development of SAD are location and family history. SAD is more common in higher latitudes away from the equator and that people with SAD are more likely to have family members with the condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing SAD is very important because it could lead to serious complications such as suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal, work problems and substance abuse. However its hard for doctors to diagnose and it isn't recognized by professionals as an official disorder, it can be diagnosed as a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder. Diagnosing it depends on experiencing the symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season, the periods of depression have been followed by periods without depression, and there are no other explanations for the changes in mood or behavior.

In easy cases, SAD can be treated simply by spending more time outdoors or sitting closer to bright windows while at home or in the office. Other treatments for seasonal affective disorder include:

Light therapy
Because increased sunlight improves symptoms, light therapy is often a main treatment for many people with SAD. In light therapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box that mimics outdoor light. Its generally easy to use and has relatively few side effects.

Some people with SAD benefit from treatment with antidepressants or other psychiatric medications, especially if symptoms are severe.

Although SAD is thought to be related to biochemical processes, your mood and behavior also can contribute to symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.

Coping with SAD require skills, here are few tips:
1- Stick to your treatment plan.
2- Let there be light.
3- Get out.
4- Exercise regularly.
5- Take care of yourself.
6- Practice stress management.
7- Socialize.
8- Take a trip.

Note: You might notice that the past few posts and the next posts may be of a negative nature that is because I believe I have SAD. In addition to that we have a very depressing project that we will work on for the next 6 months. Plus the weather these few days sucks. I barely see the sun.

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