The signs and symptoms of SAD vary greatly from person to person. Winter SAD symptoms differ from those of the rare summer-onset SAD, and symptoms can range from lethargy to weight loss to agitation, depending on the individual and the type of SAD in question.
Winter-Onset SAD Symptoms
The two types of seasonal affective disorder each have their own unique set of symptoms. The most common form of SAD is winter-onset SAD. Symptoms of this type of SAD generally appear in the late fall and continue into winter, as the days grow shorter and there is less sunlight.
Winter-onset SAD depression symptoms include food cravings â€” especially for foods with high carbohydrate levels â€” and thus, many sufferers experience weight gain. Winter-onset SAD sufferers may also experience any number of other symptoms of SAD, including:
- Body aches, often with no apparent reason
- Difficulty concentrating
- Diminished sex drive
- Fatigue, or loss of energy
- Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed.
Overall, winter-onset SAD sufferers feel often feel depressed, moody and lethargic.
Symptoms of Summer-Onset SAD
Curiously, the symptoms of SAD for summer-onset SAD sufferers are in many respects almost the opposite of winter-onset SAD. In general, people with summer-onset SAD will start to feel symptoms as the days grow sunnier and longer.
The symptoms summer-onset SAD frequently lose their appetites and, therefore, often lose weight. They also may experience:
- Increased sex drive.
SAD: The Defining Symptom
The characteristic that distinguishes all types of seasonal affective disorder is that it is cyclical; patients start to exhibit SAD symptoms at approximately the same time each year. SAD depression symptoms aren’t just the “blues.” If you think you’re experiencing seasonal depression, visit your doctor, as depression symptoms can worsen and greatly affect your quality of life.
Unusual Symptoms of SAD
The most severe SAD depression symptoms can include suicidal thoughts or behavior, although actual suicidal tendencies related to SAD are rare.
In some very unusual cases, SAD symptoms may not include depression. Instead, sufferers might act manic, not unlike those in the so-called “up” phase of bipolar disorder. SAD sufferers exhibiting mania might talk excessively, socialize more than normal or be disproportionately happy or enthusiastic in a way that’s out of proportion to the situation.
When people with SAD act manic, it can be hard for a physician to tell whether the person has SAD or bipolar disorder. This type of SAD is sometimes referred to as “reverse SAD.”
Living with SAD Depression Symptoms
If you think you’re suffering from the symptoms of SAD, visit a health care professional. SAD can affect your daily life, your health and your relationships. You don’t have to live with a bout of depression every year. Therapy, supplements and light exposure treatments may alleviate the symptoms of SAD.
American Psychiatric Association. (2010). Seasonal affective disorder. Retrieved July 10, 2010, from http://healthyminds.org/Main-Topic/Seasonal-Affective-Disorder.aspx.
Mayo Clinic. (2007). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved July 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195.
MedicineNet. (2010). What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? Retrieved July 10, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/seasonal_affective_disorder_sad/article.htm.