What Is the Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Causes It?

What is the seasonal affective disorder

While the winter months are typically more depressing for many people, feeling blue during the winter could be a sign of a more serious condition – the seasonal affective disorder. Considered a major depressive disorder, SAD is a psychological condition that requires counseling and therapy.

So, what is the seasonal affective disorder and what causes it?

What Is the Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Put simply, SAD is a depressive disorder that has a seasonal pattern. Most people experience this disorder during the winter. The symptoms typically start around October and end somewhere between March and April. Women and young adults are more affected by this condition than adult men.

Common Symptoms

Depending on when its symptoms start, SAD can be wintertime and summertime. Here are the most common symptoms of both.

Wintertime SAD:

  • Increased irritability;
  • Daytime fatigue;
  • Feeling of sadness and hopelessness;
  • Reduced sexual desire;
  • Weight gain;
  • No interest for social interactions.

Summertime SAD:

  • Agitation;
  • Increased restlessness;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Weight loss.

What Causes It?

There is no known cause of SAD. However, we know certain risk factors that can possibly lead to this condition. People who live in places with longer winters and little sunlight are at a higher risk. For example, Scandinavian countries, Canada, and Alaska are countries with a higher prevalence of SAD because of their long winter nights.

Another possible explanation is that less sunlight exposure disrupts our internal clock (circadian rhythm) that regulates our sleep patterns.

The Bottom Line

So, what is the seasonal affective disorder? It’s a depressive disorder that commonly manifests during winter. If you notice you or a loved one have started to experience some of its symptoms, schedule an appointment with your therapist.