Why So SAD?
Authored by Jennifer Knutson, PA-C, Bronson LakeView Family Care - Decatur
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), each year, millions of individuals suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that develops when the days grow shorter in fall and winter, and typically goes away during spring and summer. SAD has been linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain due to shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. This can make the holiday season a difficult time for some people.
While you can’t always differentiate symptoms of depression from those of SAD, being able to identify the timespan in which symptoms begin to occur and end is most important. Due to the nature of SAD, the development of symptoms is most common near the end of fall and at the beginning of winter months. Common symptoms of SAD can include:
- Feeling of sadness or depressed mood
- Changes in appetite; overeating, weight gain and carbohydrate cravings
- Changes in sleep; hypersomnia (sleeping a lot)
- Feeling sluggish or easily agitated
So, who’s at risk for SAD?
- Females – SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than men, according to the NIMH
- Family History – Individuals with a family history of other types of depression are more likely to develop SAD than those who do not have a family history of depression
- Those Diagnosed with Depression or Bipolar Disorder – due to the nature of SAD, symptoms of depression may worsen with the seasons if an individual already has one of these conditions
- Younger Age – SAD has been reported in children and teens; younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults
- Location - Seasonal depression is more common in individuals who live farther from the equator due to fewer daylight hours.
There are a variety of treatment options for SAD, ranging from in-home light therapy to medication prescribed by your doctor. If you have signs of SAD, you should speak with your primary care doctor, especially if those symptoms are getting in the way of your emotional wellbeing, personal relationships or daily life.
If you do not have a primary care provider, we can help you choose a health provider based on your insurance, location, medical needs and personal preferences—plus, schedule your first appointment. Get started online at bronsonhealth.com/findadoc or talk to a Bronson Care Advisor by phone at (269) 341-7788.