Seasonal Affective Disorder

November 12, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder involves episodes of depression, which are triggered at certain times of the year, most commonly winter. It is more likely to affect women than it is men and usually begins during early adulthood or during the teen years. Geographic location can be an factor in seasonal effective disorder as people who live in area where the winter nights are particularly long are at a greater risk of developing the condition. There is also a less common form, in which depression is triggered during the summer months. Other factors that can play a role in the onset of seasonal affective disorder include the amount of light, body temperature, genetics and hormones.

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

Symptoms usually get gradually worse over time, normally beginning in the late autumn or winter months. Symptoms are similar to those experienced with other forms of depression and include the following:

  • An increased appetite leading to weight gain

  • Increased sleep, particularly during the day

  • A loss of energy

  • A loss of interest in everything

  • Social withdrawal

  • Lack of concentration

  • A feeling of irritability and sadness

  • Slow and sluggish movements

  • Feeling lethargic

Whilst tests may be done to rule out symptoms being caused by other medical condition, there are no tests that can definitively diagnose seasonal affective disorder. Your doctor or health care provider will make a diagnosis based on questions and the patientÂ’s history of symptoms.

The most effective treatment

Similarly to other forms of depression, the most effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder is a combination or medication and therapy. Regular exercise can also help to control the symptoms and even a long walk in the sun could be beneficial. Although it may be difficult pushing ones self to stay socially active is also important. Light therapy may also be recommended by your doctor, which involves being exposed to a bright fluorescent light for about 30 minutes a day to mimic sunlight. Follow guidelines provided by the doctor whilst doing this. If this form of therapy is ever going to be effective, a reduction in symptoms should be noticed within 3-4 weeks. Potential side effects of light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder include eye stain, headaches and episodes of mania. Anyone taking medicine such as antibiotics, which caused sensitivity to light should avoid this from of treatment and eye test before starting is recommended.

Although symptoms of seasonal affective disorder will improve more quickly with treatment, patients should find that they clear up of their own accord as the seasons begin to change. Possible complications, although rare sometimes include long-term depression, bipolar disorder or suicidal thoughts.


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