Seasonal Affective Disorder
Depression Disorder with Seasonal Pattern, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a form of depression related to the changing of the seasons. Typically, symptoms will come and go around the same time each year.
“During the long winter, up to 20% of New Englanders will suffer mild to severe depression,” says Sherry Nykiel, MD, Medical Director of Outpatient Psychiatric Services at Boston Medical Center. “These symptoms can be disabling and it is important for people to seek help as there are effective treatment for SAD.”
“The most prevalent form of this disorder is called “fall onset” in which symptoms begin during late fall/early winter and by the spring and summer time, you start to feel much better,” says Joanna Buczek, MD, Interim BUSM Chair and BMC Chief of Psychiatry. “Adolescents and younger adults are at a higher risk for this type of depression. The most prominent symptoms include diminished energy, overeating, increase craving for carbohydrates, and increased hours of sleep.”
Other symptoms, which are similar to those of depression, include feelings of sadness, moodiness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, trouble concentrating and sleeping.
Treatment for patients with Depression Disorder with Seasonal Pattern may include lifestyle changes, light therapy, psychotherapy, and/or medication. Patients can also benefit from healthy lifestyle changes – going outside for a period of time during the day, exercising, and maintaining a healthy diet. Light therapy, also referred to as phototherapy, involves the use of artificial sunlight to help treat the symptoms of Depression Disorder with Seasonal Pattern and is effective for many people. The right treatment plan will be chosen depending on the severity of the symptoms.
If you think you are experiencing the symptoms of Depression Disorder with Seasonal Pattern, talk to your primary care physician or mental health professional or visit bmc.org/psychiatry.