Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal Affective Disorder It's wintertime, and you are gathered for the holidays with all of your family and friends. Everything seems like it should be perfect, yet you are feeling very distressed, lethargic and disconnected from everything and everyone around you. "Perhaps it is just the winter blues," you tell yourself as you delve into the holiday feast, aiming straight for the sugary fruitcake before collapsing from exhaustion. However, the depression and other symptoms that you feel continue to persist from the beginning of winter until the springtime, for years upon end without ceasing. Although you may be tempted to believe that you, like many millions of other Americans, are afflicted with a case of the winter blues, you are most likely suffering from a more severe form of seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This form of depression has been described as a form of a unipolar or bipolar mood disorder which, unlike other forms of depression, follows a strictly seasonal pattern. (5). During the winter, many of us suffer from "the winter blues", a less severe form of seasonal depression than SAD. Still others are sufferers have an already existent condition, such as pre-menstrual syndrome or depression, which is exacerbated by the coming of the winter. (2). In general, many people suffer from some form of sporadic depression during the wintertime. We may feel more tired and sad at times. We may even gain some weight or have trouble getting out of bed. Over 10 million people in America, however, may feel a more extreme form of these symptoms. They may constantly feel lethargic and depressed to an extent that social and work related activities are negatively affected. This more extreme form of the "winter blues" is SAD. Typical SAD symptoms include sugar cravings, lethargy, depression, an increase in body weight, and a greater need for sleep (1). Onset of these symptoms usually occurs in October or November, and the symptoms disappear in early spring. Frequently, people who suffer from SAD react strongly to variations in the amount of light in their surrounding environment. Most often, patients who suffer from SAD and live at more northern latitudes note that the more north they live, the more distinct and severe their SAD symptoms become. In addition, SAD patients note that their depressive symptoms increase in severity when the amount of light indoors decreases and the weather is cloudy.

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