Unlike the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder affects your daily life, including how you feel and think.
What is SAD?
Dr Earl Pantillano says Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, sometimes referred to as SAD, seasonal depression, or winter depression.
"Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression and is usually triggered by a change in seasons."
He adds that less sunlight and shorter days are thought to be linked to a chemical change in the brain.
"The main cause is the change in our circadian rhythm or body clock. Our sleep and mood regulator- melatonin and serotonin production is affected."
- Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression also known as winter depression
- in most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms disappear during the sunnier days of spring and summer
- Seasonal Affective Disorder affects your daily life
Common symptoms that can affect your daily life
Dr Pantillano says the common symptoms are:
- Feeling sad, cranky, or hopeless
- Loss of interest
- Less energy
- Trouble sleeping and concentrating
- Greater appetite
- More desire to be alone
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
Risk factors of developing SAD
Dr Pantillano says those who have a family history of seasonal affective disorder or other forms of depression, or bipolar disorder may be at risk of developing SAD.
"If your family has a history of depression, it can potenatially be aggravated during winter and also those who have bipolar disorder."
How is it diagnosed?
While there is no specific test to diagnose SAD, Dr Pantillano says a GP will likely ask a patient about the history of their symptoms and there may also be a physical exam or blood test.
"We make sure you don't have a physical condition so we do a series of test including iron or thyroid tests. If there are no problem with blood test, we have a DSM criteria. Its a screening. There's a questionnaire in relation to your symptoms and mood. There are many questionnaire that can be used to find out if you have depressive, anxiety or stress symptoms."
There are multiple methods to manage seasonal affective disorder says Dr Pantillano. Treatment options may include antidepressant medicines, talk therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy) and phototherapy (light therapy, involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits a very bright light).
There are also a few healthy habits a person may do on their own to combat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder like exercise, eating healthy food, getting as much sunlight and talking to someone, he adds.
Does it disappear after winter?
Mr Pantillano says 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.