In the winter, you may not get out of the house or office as much as you would like, and the short daylight hours might make soaking up even a little sunlight difficult. But a lack of sun exposure can do more than just fade your tan–too few hours spent under the sun can have serious mental health consequences. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), once considered just the winter blues, is now classified as a specific and serious illness.
SAD refers to episodes of depression that are directly related to a change in seasons, and usually a lack of sunlight. Depressive episodes typically occur annually, during fall or winter, and symptoms tend to improve in the spring and summer.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder is more than just feeling down in the dumps when the sun isn’t shining. The illness is categorized by afternoon slumps resulting in decreased energy and concentration, increased appetite and weight gain, excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, loss of interest in work and other activities, social withdrawal, lethargic movement, unhappiness, irritability and hopelessness.
How Does SAD Differ From Depression?
Because seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression, it shares many similar clinical depression symptoms.
But some SAD symptoms are drastically different. Weight loss is typical of other forms of depression, while SAD sufferers often experience weight gain. Problems sleeping and restlessness are common depression symptoms, while those experiencing SAD usually sleep more.