7 Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD or just sad?
And daylight savings time may not help, since darker morningsin the fall or springare particularly difficult for those with SAD.
Mild forms of SAD are believed to affect as many as 20% of people in the United States. If you think you might be one of them, view this slideshow to learn more about the signs of this disorder.
If you experience these symptoms every day for at least two weeks, it’s a sign of depression. If you feel this way only during the fall and winter, and if these symptoms disappear during the rest of the year, it may be a sign of SAD.
(For more information, see Is It Clinical Depression or Just the Blues?)
Sleepiness and fatigue
Just because you’re sleeping more doesn’t mean you'll feel rested, however. Other research has shown that people with SAD experience more insomnia and sleep disturbances, and are more prone to nodding off at work.
A 2006 study that compared groups of people with active SAD and regular depression found that more than 40% of the people in the SAD group experienced sudden fits of inappropriate anger, compared to just 29% in the other group. Those with SAD experienced 19 of these "anger attacks" a month, on average.
The voracious appetite that sometimes accompanies SAD may be a biological response to a seasonal drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with mood and helps to control hunger.
Though it can help you feel better temporarily, eating more—and being cooped up—during the winter can really pack on the pounds: Nearly 75% of people with SAD gain weight.
Gorging on carbohydrates causes the levels of an amino acid called tryptophan to rise in the brain. This in turn causes the release of serotonin, which boosts mood. In effect, people with SAD use carbohydrates as a kind of medication—and a bigger waistline is a common side effect.
A 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that this so-called cognitive impairment can be every bit as bad in people with SAD as it is in people with nonseasonal depression. One woman who participated in the study—whose symptoms qualified for SAD, but not major depression—reported that she was having difficulty remembering names and appointments, and was easily distracted.
Loss of interest in sex
Depression doesn’t exactly make you feel sexy. A loss of interest in sex is a common symptom among people with SAD and depression alike.
But this only tends to be true among people who experience SAD in the fall and winter. If the disorder appears in the spring and summer—a much rarer condition sometimes called “summer depression” or “reverse SAD”—some of the symptoms tend to be the opposite of winter SAD. And one of the hallmarks of summer depression is an increased sex drive.