Did you know that in Florida, 1.4 percent of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression only seen during the winter months? SAD is also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal depression. In the northeast SAD is seen at a rate of 9.7%.
Some of the symptoms of SAD may consist of difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to oversleep and over eat (the opposite of regular non seasonal depression), especially a craving for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities and decreased sex drive. All of this leads to depression, negative feelings of hopelessness, and lack of pleasure from hobbies or things that normally bring you pleasure. It is important to distinguish SAD from the normal feelings of typical depression which are insomnia, anxiety, irritability, decreased appetite, weight loss, social withdrawal, decreased sex drive, and suicide. Classic depression is usually seen during the spring and summer months.
You may have noticed that during these winter months you’ve been eating more carbohydrates than usual and that is because carbohydrates supply some of the essential building blocks to serotonin which is the key ingredient in most antidepressant medication to treat depression. Essentially you are treating your depression the only drawback is weight gain.
One of the most common forms of treatment is light therapy. Sometimes antidepressant medicine is used alone or in combination with light therapy. Spending time outdoors during the day can be helpful, as well as maximizing the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to at home and in the office.
If you believe that you are suffering from SAD please see your local psychiatrist for a full evaluation. It is important to rule out other forms of depression or even a medical illness that may be causing these symptoms.
I hope this information has helped. Enjoy the holidays!
Marcus De Carvalho, M.D., General Psychiatrist, The Center for a Healthy Mind and Wellbeing.