13 Symptoms of Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD)
Let me boil all of these symptoms of seasonal affective disorder down for you.
Remember before in my first article on
I said there were two types of these disorders?
The first type comes on in the fall and winter and is often
called winter depression. Below is a baker’s dozen of the most
recognized symptoms, and the ones most reported, by people who have this
type. (I’ll cover the second type and its symptoms further on down in
Understand that you (or your loved one) don’t have to have every
single one of these for your doctor or expert healthcare provider to
diagnose you with winter SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal
Affective Disorder Include:
- Mood changes including anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness
- Lack of energy, with daytime fatigue and sluggishness
- Problems dealing with people, including being hypersensitive about rejection
- Irritability, grouchiness
- A feeling of isolation and withdrawing from being around people. Wanting to hibernate
- Being uninterested in most activities that
were fun and that you once enjoyed before the onset of the symptoms of
seasonal affective disorder
- A change in appetite, especially carbohydrate cravings (foods like potato chips and cookies)
- Through the years, times you’ve been
depressed with winter depression are far more often than major
depressive episodes at any other time of the year
- Weight gain
- Week after week is nothing but gloomy days. Life seems rather bleak.
- Some people say their arms and legs feel heavy
- A person feels fuzzyheaded with difficulty concentrating. Some people describe their mental symptoms as “like living in a fog”
- Excessive sleeping
What causes these symptoms of
seasonal affective disorder?
Here’s the blunt answer: Researchers of SAD don’t really know. However, they have assembled a line up of the biggest suspects:
- Reduced sunlight: In the fall and winter the
days get shorter and the eyes are taking in less daylight. This in turn
affects the brain and leads to depression. How?
- Because of serotonin. Researchers say the loss
of sunlight leads to a drop in serotonin levels because with less
light, the brain isn’t producing enough serotonin. This chemical, a
neurotransmitter in the brain, affects mood, energy, sleep, appetite,
and concentration. It’s known for its calming effects. So if there’s
less of it, signs of depression may set in. And by the way, eating
carbohydrates boosts serotonin, which is why one of the symptoms of
seasonal affective disorder is carbohydrate cravings.
- Then there’s melatonin: This is a hormone that
plays a major role in regulating sleep cycles. And during the fall and
winter change of seasons, melatonin levels can get all screwed up. Not
only that, a National Institute of Mental Health study (Proc Natl Acad
Sci U S A. 2006 Apr 28) reported that “most Seasonal Affective Disorder
(SAD) symptoms stem from daily body rhythms [circadian rhythms] that
have gone out-of-sync with the sun.” Researchers found that “Taking
melatonin at the correct time of day...more than doubled improvement in
- And finally, there’s the role of genetics. It appears that SAD may be a disorder that some people inherit and that develops in various families.
What about the second type
of seasonal depression?
Spring and summer mood changes can bring on this second type of depression. Typical summer depression symptoms are:
- Losing weight
- Lousy appetite
- Grumpy attitude
- A boost in sex drive
More extreme cases of depression in the spring and summer, called
reverse seasonal affective disorder, have the main symptoms of greatly
elevated mood and hyperactive energy levels (a form of bipolar
So let’s say you have some or many of the above smorgasbord of
symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Well, the first thing you need to do if you are depressed can be
summed up in two words: Get help. Please. Do it. Talk to your
See, the fact is, you must have a proper diagnostic assessment
from a trained SAD professional. Not only to be sure of what you
have, but to get the proper seasonal affective disorder treatment.
Now the great news is, there are treatments available that can
often turn things around for people with SAD in just a matter of days.
We’ll look at those treatments in the next article, part 4.
Also, click the box below for natural supplements that can help
too. There’s a bunch of helpful tips and information at that website to
help you out (clicking opens a new window).
The bottom line is, if you have the symptoms of seasonal
affective disorder, it doesn’t have to be a recurring bad theme in your
life every year.
Here are more articles you will find helpful.
Here’s A Free Audio for You On SAD Syndrome
Part 2, Seasonal Affective Disorder: How Many People Have Sad Disorder?
Part 4: 5 Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment
Best Light Therapy for SAD: White, Blue, Green, or Red?
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