Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal mood disorder is a type of depression.
The word 'seasonal' in seasonal depression refers to how this disorder affects people at the same time every year.
Symptoms of seasonal depression usually start in fall and continue throughout winter, although sometimes people have symptoms in spring or early summer instead.
Winter and summer related seasonal depression have different symptoms. Winter depression includes a feeling of hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, avoidance of social contacts, over-sleeping and loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed. It can also create cravings for high carbohydrate foods. If you have these symptoms during fall and/or winter but they get better as summer approaches you may have winter depression. Summer depression also includes anxiety but differs in also including trouble sleeping, irritability and a poor appetite. This is not a complete list of symptoms but it does show how winter and summer depression have different symptoms. If you notice symptoms during the warmer months but not during the colder parts of the year you may have summer depression.
Why Do Some People Get Seasonal Depression?
Currently it is not known exactly why some people get seasonal depression (or why some people have it in winter and others in summer). Mental health experts think the condition may be caused by a lack of sunlight. This can impact your circadian rhythms (although this explains winter better than summer depression). It is also possible that it may be due to problems with a brain chemical called serotonin that has been pin-pointed in some mental health problems. (This provides a better explanation for summer depression than the first idea.) Although most psychological conditions are usually due to a mix of different things and not any one cause.
Things that increase your risk of getting seasonal depression include being female, living far from the equator, a family history of depression or having depression or bipolar disorder yourself. The most common age to suffer this condition is from 15 to 55 years.
Like other types of depression, seasonal depression can get worse and lead to complications like alcohol abuse or work problems. If you think you may have this condition you can gain information and treatment from your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.