Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by strong and season dependent fluctuations in mood. Most common is a shift between depressive symptoms on the autumn/winter (winter depression), and remission or even manic behavior of the spring/summer.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depression that occurs regularly over a given season (usually autumn/winter). Equally regularly, the symptoms disappear completely. Common symptoms of the depressive phase are
- a melancholic mood;
- increased need for sleep;
- impaired social, physical and/or sexual activity;
- modified (usually increased) appetite with changed eating behavior (sugar needed) and weight gain;
- premenstrual tension;
- concentration difficulties
- or often a combination of these.
During the winter depression, the first clinical symptoms begin to appear around September or October. The clinical picture is generally strongest in January, while the symptoms gradually disappears during the course of the spring. Summer is usually asymptomatic. In few patients hypermanic behavior or, even more rarely, manic behavior was noticed in the summer.
The diagnosis was described as recently as 1984 by Norman Rosenthal with his colleagues.
One of the reasons why the disorder long remained undetected is its greater or less seasonality, mood swings are common also in other healthy subjects. It is only when this oscillation develops into a disorder that you talk about SAD. SAD can also be seen as an extreme form of a naturally occurring variation.
Around 5% of the adult population suffer from SAD. More women than men suffer from the disorder.
Prevalence – the existence – varies by country. The variation does not appear to be due to genetic differences between races, but to latitude. The only exception to this is Iceland, where a much lower proportion of the population is afflicted than in countries at similar latitudes. The cause is believed to be that Iceland has been fairly isolated from other countries for a long time. Typically, individuals having genital or health problems died earlier than healthy individuals and thus had fewer or no children, which means that the tendency to develop the disorder through natural selection fell closer to the poles. This adaptation to extreme latitudes with its light conditions is partly counteracted by genetic exchange with the surrounding areas, while the isolated Island achieved a higher degree of adaptation to latitude.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is often treated with phototherapy or with pharmacological treatment.
Other possibilities that have proven successful is changed living situation, such as moving south even within a country. More time outdoors during daylight hours and exercise have also been mentioned as a possible means.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a controversial diagnosis. Swedish Council on Technology Assessment – expressing skepticism about whether the diagnosis can be distinguished from other depressive states.
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