Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a type of clinical depression which follows a seasonal pattern. Typically someone with S.A.D. will start to experience symptoms of depression in fall or early winter, with improvement in spring or early summer.
It isn’t clear what causes S.A.D. but research has linked depression to high levels of melatonin, a hormone which is produced naturally in our bodies during darkness (mostly while we sleep). During the winter when there are fewer hours of daylight, our levels of melatonin rise and this could relate to increased rates of depression in some people.
It’s also believed that with the advent of electricity, we’ve shifted our internal biological clocks and that this may have affected our brain chemistry. Instead of going to bed when it becomes dark and rising with the sun as our ancestors did before electricity, we now sleep and wake according to standardized time frames.
Did you know?
Women are more likely than men to suffer from S.A.D. S.A.D. often first appears when people are in their 20’s and 30’s. It is estimated that 2-3% of the population suffer from S.A.D.
Other signs and symptoms of depression include:
There are many treatment options for S.A.D., including medication (e.g. antidepressants) and psychotherapy (e.g. cognitive behaviour therapy). The most common treatment for S.A.D. is light therapy which involves exposure to specific kinds of light for prescribed amounts of time which is intended to inhibit the production of melatonin.
For a list of places where you can get treatment and/or find a doctor, click here.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, you can learn more about your choices and figure out which treatments might be best for you. To learn more click here.