Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of debilitating mood disorder that causes people to experience severe depression and irritability during certain months of the year, generally between September and March.
However, this mood disorder can also affect people in a few other ways, depending on a person’s individual circumstances.
For example, while some people can suffer from SAD during the summer months, namely from March through August, others may experience a condition known as reverse SAD, in which they are manic during the winter months.
Manic states are characterized by extreme elation, irritability and irrationality, as opposed to depression and lethargy.
Currently, researchers are still conducting studies to unveil the underlying causes of seasonal affective disorder. Because the precise causes of SAD remain unknown, treatment for it typically revolves around reducing the symptoms.
In general, experts recommend that SAD patients take some of the following measures when they start to notice they are experiencing SAD symptoms:
- Add more lights to your home.
- Exercise more frequently.
- Practice stress management techniques
- Take a vacation to a sunnier, warmer location.
These, along with medication and light therapy, can be effective ways to combat SAD.
However, keep in mind that, while no single cure currently exists for seasonal affective disorder, experts have identified some risk factors related to this condition. In this section, we will highlight the two major factors that make someone more likely to develop SAD. Our articles will help you identify your individual risk for developing this condition.
Geography and SAD
One of the main risk factors linked to the development of SAD is the location in which you live. In fact, studies have shown that people who live in extreme northern or southern areas (in other words, further away from the equator) are far more likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
While researchers are still working to discover exactly why location and SAD are linked, some have theorized that the cooler temperatures and reduced sunlight associated with these regions are responsible for the higher incidence of SAD.
Another theory speculates that the extended dark nights in areas further from the equator stimulates the human body’s production of melatonin, a neurotransmitter that, when present in high concentrations in the body, can lead to depression.
Studies are still being conducted to uncover the precise link between geography and SAD.
Famous SAD Sufferers
Knowing that others are battling or have battled seasonal affective disorder can make your struggle easier. Here is a list of some famous SAD sufferers:
- Barbara Hambly, author
- Jillian Barberie, TV personality
- Natalie Imbruglia, musician
- Rick Strom, musician
- Rosie O’Donnell, TV personality.
Genetics and SAD
Another leading risk factor for SAD is a family history of the condition. Researchers have proven that people who are related to those who have suffered or currently do suffer from seasonal affective disorder are more likely to develop this mood disorder.
While this may lead some to think that SAD is related to our genetic makeup, no study has conclusively proven that SAD has genetic roots.
In fact, shared environments or socio-economic factors can be responsible for making family history of SAD a risk factor for the condition, rather than genetics itself.
Interestingly, though, experts have found that women are more likely to develop SAD than men. However, even though men are less likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder, they are more prone to experience more severe symptoms when they do develop it. As a result, more research needs to be done on the link between genetics and SAD.