Skip to main content

Kim Norwood

School Counselor

Boundary County Middle School

kim.norwood@mail.bcsd101.com

School Counselor

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of year, usually during the long, gray days of winter. People with SAD can have symptoms of depression start when the daylight hours become shorter and the symptoms can decrease as spring approaches.  The disorder may begin during the teen years or in early adulthood and more women than men experience SAD (like other forms of depression, females are four times more likely to develop SAD).

Symptoms of SAD may include:

·   Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)

·   Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)

·   Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon

·   Loss of interest in work, school or other activities

·   Slow, sluggish, lethergy

·   Social withdrawal

·   Unhappiness and irritability

It is thought that with SAD, depression is somehow triggered by the brain’s response to decreased daylight exposure.  Two chemicals, melatonin and serotonin, which occur naturally in the body, are thought to be involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycles, energy, and mood. The shorter days and longer hours of darkness that occur in winter can increase melatonin levels and decrease serotonin levels, which may create the biological conditions for depression.

SAD is diagnosed by health care providers based on the history of symptoms.  Generally a physical exam and blood tests are performed to rule out other disorders that are similar to SAD. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your child has SAD.

Treatment for SAD can involve increased light exposure during the winter months.  Taking long walks and getting exercise can make the symptoms better.  In more severe cases, light therapy may be prescribed, using a special lamp with a very bright fluorescent light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun.  With no treatment, symptoms usually get better on their own with the change of seasons.  However, symptoms can improve more quickly with treatment.

Counselor2