The seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that coincides with the change of seasons. It is normal for people to go through short periods when they feel sad or a little different than normal. An example: we can feel sad when the days are shorter in autumn and more animated in spring, when there are more hours of sunshine.
In some cases, these mood swings are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and attends their daily activities. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this may indicate seasonal affective disorder, which is a type of depression. What is the origin of this disorder?
The origin of this disorder is not clear . Research indicates patients may have reduced activity of serotonin, a chemical (neurotransmitter) in the brain that helps regulate mood.
Others also suggest that sunlight controls the levels of molecules that help maintain normal levels of serotonin, but in people with seasonal affective disorder, this regulation does not work properly, leading to decreased levels of serotonin in winter.
Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is not considered as a separate disorder, but is a type of depression characterized by its recurring seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting between 4 and 5 months of the year. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of this disorder include those related to major depression and some specific symptoms that differ depending on whether it is winter pattern or summer pattern seasonal affective disorder.
According to the NIH, symptoms of depression could be:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day.
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight.
- Having trouble sleeping
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Have little energy
- Feeling hopeless or worthless.
- Have difficulty concentrating
For winter pattern seasonal affective disorder , additional specific symptoms may include:
- Sleeping too much (hypersomnia).
- Overeating, especially having carbohydrate cravings.
- Gain weight.
- Withdrawing socially.
For summer pattern seasonal affective disorder , additional specific symptoms may include:
- Having trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Having a poor appetite and weight loss.
- Feeling restless and agitated
- Have anxiety
- Experiencing episodes of violent behavior.
Seasonal affective disorder occurs more frequently in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, especially type 2 bipolar disorder, which is associated with recurrent depressive and hypomanic episodes, health authorities explain.
In addition, people with seasonal affective disorder tend to have other mental disorders , such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or an eating, anxiety, or panic disorder. And it is more common in people who have family members with other mental illnesses, such as major depression or schizophrenia.