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Myths and Facts for February 10, 2017

Week of February 10, 2017 - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Perception/Myth:  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) only occurs in the cold and gloomy winter months.    

Answer/Fact: Wrong.

While it’s true that the peak of the SAD season is between December and February, SAD symptoms can start as early as September and end as late as April. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summertime sadness, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter, spring or summer months.

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Major depression

Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression that comes and goes based on seasons. So symptoms of major depression may be part of SAD, such as:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

Source: Mayo Clinic