Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that sees a person developing a form of depression in a particular season even though they have normal levels of depression at other times of the year. It mostly affects people during the winter months. However, there are also some cases of seasonal affective disorder appearing during the summer. There are a variety of treatments that are available for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder including light therapy, ionised air, cognitive behavioural therapy, melatonin, and various anti-depressants.
The underlying cause of seasonal affective disorder is thought to be a lack of exposure to sufficient amounts of light. It is particular prevalent in people from very northerly areas of the planet, such as Finland, for example, which has an incidence of seasonal affective disorder approaching 10%. The effect of this lack of sunshine can also seemingly be enhanced by significant amounts of cloud cover as well.
There are several symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and they are similar to those of clinical depression. The main characteristics are depression and pessimism and an inability to gain pleasure from things. But other symptoms exist as well, such as insomnia, waking up late, lacking energy, lack of concentration, and withdrawal. In the very worst cases seasonal affective disorder can even lead to suicide. Indeed perhaps as many as one third of sufferers will end up hospitalised at some point due to an episode.
But the effect of the weather on mood is not just confined to the winter blues. There are also examples of so-called reverse seasonal affective disorder. This is where the condition appears during the summer or perhaps the spring. Symptoms can include irritation and anxiety, as well as a weight loss that is associated with loss of appetite.
There are several different treatments for seasonal affective disorder. One of the main ones is light therapy. This involves shining a bright light at appropriate times of day and at appropriate wavelengths. This is certainly effective in curing the sleep problems that the person suffers, using dawn simulation, for example.
But there are other possibilities as well. One of these is the use of anti-depressant medication such as fluoxetine, for example. Cognitive behavioural therapy can also be used to help remove unjustifiably negative thoughts from the person’s mind. Another effective treatment involves negative air ionisation using charged particles released into the air where the person is sleeping. A possible treatment using Vitamin D supplement has not been proven.