Depression Help
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs in people during the winter months. Sunlight affects many types of animals. During winter months, other types of animals are less active and less social. In humans, these symptoms are classified as a type of depression.

Symptoms include mild symptoms of depression that only occur during the fall and winter months. If symptoms last into spring and summer, it is not SAD. Interestingly, people with SAD often have cravings for sugary or starchy foods.   Therapists generally want to see a pattern, for at least two seasons with full remission of symptoms in the spring and summer before they make a diagnosis of SAD. SAD is thought to be caused because the brain secretes too much melatonin during the darker months. Although not clinically proven, therapists often prescribe light therapy to slow the brains production of melatonin. Many people respond very well to this therapy. In more sever cases or if the patient does not respond to light therapy, the therapist may prescribe antidepressants.  

Symptoms of SAD are usually mild and they generally subside in the summer or spring even without treatment. Because this is essentially a brain chemistry problem, there is no group or individual therapy involved in the treatment of SAD. The good news is that once a diagnosis is made, the patient knows he needs to return for his light therapy and/or his medications during the fall so he doesn't have to suffer any of the symptoms of SAD.