What We Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder  


Not Many Singaporeans are familiar about the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is also known as summer depression, seasonal depression or winter depression. This is a major depressive disorder (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV and DSM-5). SAD is a recurrent depressive disorder that happens at a particular time of the year but it fully remits.


Although at first experts were cynical about the condition, it is now documented as a common disorder. In fact, in the United States, SAD’s prevalence is made known in Alaska and Florida. Although we do not hear of this disorder often here in our country, there are chances that someone we know might suffer from this. With this, it is imperative that we need to know about SAD. We have to remember that some people encounterserious mood changes when the seasons change.

Here the things that we need to know about SAD:

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms include difficulty getting up in the morning. It does not end there because one might also feel nauseous. There are people who have tendency to over eat and over sleep. When the person over eat, the craving is more of carbohydrates which will eventually lead to weight gain. Other signs include exhaustion or lack of energy, having difficulty completing or concentrating on tasks, withdrawal from social activities, decreased sexual drive, irritability, anxiety and insomnia. All these symptoms will lead to feelings of depression, displeasure and pessimism.


Experts have pointed out many causes of the mood changes during a particular time of the year. For example, during winter, activities are diminished because of the weather. There will be reduction of sunlight and difficulties in surviving the weather. The lack of activities and sunlight can cause depression. Another point of view is that serotonin plays an important role in the development of SAD. There is also a theory saying that melatonin plays an important role in the development of SAD.


According to the DSM-IV criteria, SAD is not a different disorder. SAD is actually a “specifier” attached or added to patients with bipolar or major depressive disorder. The “specifier” must meet four criteria for it to be called such. Mayo Clinic actually described three kinds of SAD with different symptoms.



The good news is that there are many therapies that patients can consider if they want to get better. For example, if one is affected by the winter-based SAD, therapies include cogitative-behavioural therapy, supplementation of melatonin, light therapy, medications and ionized-air. Of all the therapies, the most effective treatment is light. Light therapy maximizes light box that discharges lumens. Lights include white light at 10,000 lux, the blue light at 2,500 lux and green light at 350 lux. The patient needs to sit according to the prescribed distance (from thirty to sixty centimetres)  with his/her eyes open for at least thirty to sixty minutes. When doing this, it is important that we designate aschedule.Antidepressants have proven helpful in treating SAD too. Antidepressants like paroxetine and sertraline can help. In the case of the negative air ionization therapy, it implicates the discharging of particles (charged) into the environment. The most basic therapy is physical exercise. In any depression therapy, physical exercise has a potential. Treatments can be used in conjunction with the other depending on the patient.


There are studies saying that SAD patients have delayed circadian rhythm. The light therapy treatment can treat such delays which will eventually improve the mental state of the patients. SAD is prevalent in arctic regions. SAD is something that should be considered because patients suffering from such have higher risk of potential suicide.

Remember that SAD does not only cover winter. There are people who suffer depression during summer. If we notice someone we know with such symptoms, it is important to give him/her support and understanding. Indeed there is a connection between mood, energy levels and the weather. Even healthy individuals can suffer SAD.

For more information about the disorder, we need to consult the doctor and ask for therapies. Though it will usually go away by the time the weather is fine, the moments lost during the depression and the productivity will never return.


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