If you notice periods of depression that accompany the seasonal changes during a calendar year, you may suffer from something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The condition is marked by recurrent depressive periods, manifesting in late fall and early winter, alternating with periods of normal or high mood through the remainder of the year.
The majority of people with seasonal affective disorder are women, with the first signs of illness displaying when the patient is in her early to mid-twenties. It is possible for men to report that they are experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder that are similar in severity to their female counterparts. Children and adolescents may also display symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, but it is thought that younger patients manifesting symptoms of SAD are more likely to have one close relative with a psychiatric condition.
What are the patterns of seasonal affective disorder?
The symptoms of winter seasonal affective disorder typically appear in October and diminish as the calendar approaches either March or April. The possibility exists for some patients to remain healthy well into the month of December, hitting their own downward spiral as late as the dawn of the New Year. No matter when the onset, the majority of patients do not feel completely like themselves until such early May. This may all sound rather hopeless, but the depression is often mild to moderate and few patients have required hospitalization. It is even more rare for a case that does require hospitalization to reach a “point of no return” requiring ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).
The usual symptoms of winter seasonal affective disorder include:
- Daytime fatigue.
- Weight gain.
- Carbohydrate craving.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Social withdrawal.
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