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Seasonal Affective Disorder - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Jun 01, 2020 and last reviewed on Jun 24, 2022   -  5 min read


Seasonal affective disorder is a type of mood disorder that includes depression. Read this article to know about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Seasonal Affective Disorder - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is known to occur in a climate where there is low sunlight during certain times of the year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one type of depression that is known to begin and end during the same period every year.

What Are the Causes?

Climate: Usually, all the species are known to go through a phase called hibernation. During this period, changes in behavior are observed. Normal activity is reduced during the winter months and they are known to remain dormant. There will be a reduction in food that is available and a reduction of sunlight. The diurnal animals have difficulties surviving in cold weather. There is a usual tendency towards low mood during the winter months. This characteristic is also seen in humans.

Lack of Serotonin: The probable cause is the lack of serotonin. Serotonin has to be converted to N-acetylserotonin by the enzyme serotonin N-acetyltransferase. If it does not get converted, there will be entry of depression due to the inadequate enzymes.

Lack of Melatonin: The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body's level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

What Are the Symptoms?

Many patients with seasonal affective disorder might experience the symptoms only during winter. The symptoms may be less severe in summer and spring. Some people with the opposite type have symptoms that might begin in summer and spring. In both cases, symptoms may begin very mildly and become severe as the season progresses.

What Is GSS?

GSS is a Global Seasonality Score. It is a measure of different seasonal changes in sleeping length, social activity and well-being, mood variation, weight, appetite, and energy level.

What Is the Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder?

In bipolar disorder, including type 1 and type 2, the pattern of seasonal affective disorder. Many people with seasonal affective disorder might experience a major depressive disorder. Some of the seasonal affective disorder patients may have a bipolar disorder. Gender plays an important role in exhibiting characteristics associated with seasonal patterns. Men are known to have depressive episodes. Women are known to have rapid cycling and eating disorders.

What Is the Relationship Between Personality Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Personality disorders are the describing factors of a person’s identity and character. They are clusters A, B, and C.

Cluster A: Paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal.

Cluster B: Antisocial, Borderline, Narcissism, and histrionic.

Cluster C: Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, Codependency, and avoidance attachment types.

Of all these types, schizotypal, histrionic, narcissistic, and obsessive-compulsive personality types were known to experience more traits of seasonal affective disorder. The seasonal affective disorder is more commonly known to be associated with patients with anxiety and depression.

Who Is More Prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What Are the Types of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There are two types of seasonal affective disorder. They are winter depression and summer depression. The symptoms vary in each face:

The winter seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

The Summer seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

How Can It Be Diagnosed?

Many experts considered this condition skeptical, now it is diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). A psychological evaluation will be done to see for the signs of depression and anxiety. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire to help answer these questions.

What Is the Treatment?


Light Therapy:

Light therapy is the oldest treatment of choice. The idea behind light therapy is to replace natural sunshine. This replacement can be obtained by sitting in front of a light box in the morning. This should be done on a daily basis. The light boxes are known to filter out the ultraviolet rays. This might require 20-60 minutes of exposure to white fluorescent light. This is estimated to be 20 times greater than ordinary indoor lighting.

Tips to Use Light Therapy:

Psychotherapy Treatment:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy treatment that is very effective for seasonal affective disorder. Traditional methods of cognitive-behavioral therapy have been adapted for seasonal affective disorder. Behavioral activation seeks to help the person identify and change their activities that are engaging and very pleasurable. It can engage in many coping strategies.

Vitamin D Supplementation:

Vitamin D supplementation by itself is not regarded as an effective seasonal affective disorder. The reason behind its use is that low blood levels of vitamin D were found in people with seasonal affective disorder. The low levels of vitamin D are usually due to insufficient dietary intake or poor exposure to sunshine.

Experiencing changes in mood or any similar symptoms? Call a doctor online.

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Last reviewed at:
24 Jun 2022  -  5 min read




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