Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is an actual type of depression. Once referred to as the winter blues, physicians and psychologists now recognize the symptoms.
Much like any type of depression, symptoms include feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious. One can lose interest in normal activities. Added to these symptoms is the craving for carbohydrates like bread and pasta and the desire to sleep more during the day.
The key to diagnosing SAD is that a person is depressed during the same season and has gotten relief when the seasons change for at least two years in a row. Most individuals with SAD have a relative with the same condition.
What is it about the winter? Is it the cold weather? Is it the dreary blanket of grey clouds? Scientists feel the issue is not the weather itself, but the decrease in daylight that comes with the season.
In fact, the incidence of SAD increases as you head north. The decrease in daylight affects the body’s circadian rhythm – that part of our brain that tells us when to sleep and when to get up. In addition to the disruption of the sleep-wake cycle, the decrease in sunlight causes an increase in melatonin, the sleep-related hormone, and a decrease in serotonin, which can cause depression.