Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, therapy

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A gloomy day can put many people in a bad mood. But for a small percentage of the population, a whole season can spiral into a serious depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD strikes 1 to 10 percent of the population every year, according to a 2009 journal review in The Physician and Sportsmedicine.
The causes behind SAD are still unknown, but researchers are learning more about its biological clues. Reports of successful treatments using light therapy have led to a theory that dwindling daylight hours during fall and winter months interrupts some people’s circadian rhythms causing depression, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“People tend to feel the symptoms in the autumn and more severely in the winter,” said Dr. Victor Fornari, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, New York. “Typically it lifts in springtime.” The symptoms of SAD are the same as those that accompany depression. Hopelessness, unhappiness, irritability, a lack of interest in usual hobbies, difficulty paying attention, fatigue and withdrawing from friends and family are all symptoms of SAD, Fornari said.
While some forms of depression contribute to weight loss, SAD sufferers often have increased appetite and weight gain. SAD is also marked by daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy.
While many symptoms of SAD parallel symptoms of depression, SAD sufferers go through a yearly cycle of depressive symptoms followed by a time when they are free from symptoms. “The first thing to recognize is having a day when you feel down is normal,” Fornari said. “If you feel down for days at a time and you can’t shake it, people should go see their primary care physician, especially if they have a disturbance in their sleep or if they’re thinking about not wanting to live.”
While sufferers may not experience SAD every year, they tend to have it 70 percent of the years. “So if you total up the amount of time of one’s life it can be the same as major depression disorder,” said Kathryn Roecklein, psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Doctors diagnose SAD through a series of questions about symptoms. Usually physical tests are only required to rule out other causes of depressive symptoms. Sometimes a psychological evaluation is needed for severe forms of SAD, according to the NIH.
SAD is considered a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder and can be difficult to distinguish from other psychological problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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