Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
is a type of depression that follows the seasons. Individuals suffering
from SAD will suffer from symptoms of depression at a certain time
of the year, every year. Most people who suffer from Seasonal Affective
Disorder usually experience depressive symptoms during the late
fall and winter months. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) describes Seasonal Affective Disorder
not as a separate mood disorder but as a "specifier,"
referring to the seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes that
can occur within major depressive and bipolar disorders.
Seasonal Pattern Specifiers
Regular temporal relationship between the
onset of major depressive episodes and a particular time of
the year (unrelated to obvious season-related psychosocial stressors)
Full remissions (or a change from depression
to mania or hypomania) also occur at a characteristic time of
Two major depressive episodes meeting criteria
A and B in last two years and no nonseasonal episodes in the
Seasonal major depressive episodes substantially
outnumber the nonseasonal episodes over the individual's lifetime
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.
4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association,
1994:390. Copyright 1994.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is
related to the amount of light present at different times of the
year. SAD, also known as winter depression, is the body reaction
to the lack of adequate sunlight. An estimated 4 to 6% of the U.S.
population suffer from winter depression and an additional 10 to
20% experience mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. This condition
is more common in women than in men at a 4:1 ratio. People who suffer
from this condition may need light therapy.
Light therapy is process
where the individual is exposed to artificial sunlight for
a short period of time each day through the late fall and
winter months. Tanning beds should not be used to treat Seasonal
Affective Disorder since the light source is high in ultra
violet rays that can cause damage to eyes and skin. There
are few side effects related to proper light therapy. Some
of the side effects may include eyestrain, headache, irritability
and inability to sleep if treated late in the day, and fatigue.
Many people choose Alternative
Therapies, which include meditation and relaxation, exercise,
acupuncture, and herbal agents, such as St. John's Wort.