Do you experience depression pangs only during summer or winter? Do you find your mood to be fluctuating only during the winter and summer months? If yes, then it may be due to SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as winter depression or winter blues; or summer depression or summer blues. It occurs almost at the same time every year. The symptoms of SAD appear for some time and then fade off. The incidence of SAD is quite common ranging from 1.4% in Florida to 9.7% in New Hampshire. Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues, who belonged to the National Institute of Mental Health, did the formal recognition and naming of SAD.

What causes SAD?

Want to know what exactly causes SAD? Well, interestingly the process of hibernation is the main reason that causes Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course, we do not hibernate like the animals do… But the tendency to hibernate is present in every species in a dormant manner. It becomes active as and when required. Activity decreases during the winter months because of the scarcity of food and the extreme weather conditions. Though you may find food to it during all the seasons, yet the environmental conditions may make you feel low and sloppy. Changes in the environmental conditions have a great influence on human body and behavior. It is often considered that SAD is the residual symptom of some remote ancestor who had a tendency of hibernation response.

Apart from this the presence of the amount of light and clouds in the atmosphere and environment also play a vital role in the development of SAD. It is more common in the Arctic region, Northern Finland etc. Lack of exposure to proper light influences the brain and body chemicals. If you are not exposed to proper light conditions then your circadian rhythm may also suffer, resulting in SAD.

Incidence Rate of SAD

Region Incidence
Arctic Region (e.g. Northern Finland) 9.5%
US Population 14.3%
Florida 1.4%

In a nutshell, light and weather conditions play a vital role in the incidence of SAD. Therefore, the treatment interventions of SAD are also based on this aspect.

Symptoms of SAD

Winter and Summer SAD have their own characteristic symptoms. Let me tell you some of the predominant symptoms of the same:

Symptoms of Summer SAD

  • Restlessness and Anxiety
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in appetite, usually decreased appetite
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and anger
  • Social withdrawal

Symptoms of Winter SAD

  • Feeling low, sad and dejected
  • Increased appetite
  • Changes in diet and sleep patterns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Need to stay isolated
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty in concentration and attention
  • Difficulty in completing work
  • Emotional numbness

Management of SAD

The treatment and management procedures of SAD depend on the season one is affected on. If you are suffering from winter blues, then along with medications and therapy you will be given light exposure therapy too. If you are experiencing summer SAD, then the treatment processes include anti-depressants plus psychotherapy.

Best Wishes,