Liking or not liking weather is personal choice and all of us for some particular reasons like or dislike a particular weather. But when changing weather becomes a reason for your depression and the season change makes you irritable, depressed or hopeless than chances are there that you might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D).
What is seasonal affective disorder?
S.A.D is a type of depression that occurs at same time every year. These symptoms start in autumn and continue into winter. If symptoms occur for two-three years in a row than there is probability that you might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder. The classical seasonal affective disorder is seen in autumn and winters, it rarely happens in spring or early summer. The change in weather makes the days short and person gets lesser time to go out and enjoy outdoor activities. In snow covered areas and places where there is drastic drop in temperature in winters and the change in season greatly affects the physical, social and other activities, the effect of changing season is observed most and the inhabitants of such places are more prone to have seasonal affective disorder.
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
Apart from the changing season there are many other factors that contribute to the development of seasonal affective disorder. As the weather changes from summers to autumn or winters the length of the day is decreased which means a longer night and shorter day. This results in a lesser time for all social activities. The decrease in length of the day also means there is a reduced sunlight which causes the disturbance in circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm of your body decides your wakeful and sleep hours. The disturbed circadian rhythm results in long wakeful hours at night becoming a cause for loneliness and depression. With disturbed circadian rhythm there is one more change that is observed and that is decrease in serotonin and melatonin levels. Serotonin and melatonin are the hormones that are the so called feel good hormones of your body. Serotonin and melatonin require sunlight for their synthesis, decreased sunlight also decreases their levels and the decrease results in low mood, irritability, hopelessness which is usually accompanied by inability to sleep.
What are the symptoms of Seasonal affective disorder?
Although seasonal affective disorder is more common in autumn and winter but also occurs in spring and summers. The symptoms of both the seasonal affective disorders have been described below.
Autumn and winter affective disorder
Autumn and winters have a shortened day length and a person has less time for social activities. So the symptoms of winter affective disorder are as follows:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, ‘leaden’ feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes usually it is increased and person has craving for foods rich in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
Summer seasonal affective disorder
The symptoms of summer and spring affective disorder are more or less like generalized disorder. Persons who have a medical history of depression are more prone to have summer onset affective disorder. So the symptoms of summer affective disorder are as follows-
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Increased sex drive
Season change and bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood affective disorder in which a person has alternating episodes of mania (elevated mood) and depression. Sometimes bipolar disorder is also connected with seasonal affective disorder. In such persons with change of season from autumn to spring the symptoms of depression are changed to an unusual elevated mood and mania. It is also known as reverse seasonal affective disorder. The symptoms are:
- Persistently elevated mood
- Unusual enthusiasm which is inappropriate and out of proportion to the situation
- Rapid change in thoughts
- Fast speech
Who can have seasonal affective disorder?
Although anybody can have a seasonal affective disorder but still there are certain situations that put you at risk of having a seasonal affective disorder. These factors don’t mean that you will surely have seasonal affective disorder but you probably have a higher tendency to have the disorder. The risk factors include:
- Being a female: females usually are more susceptible of having seasonal affective disorder
- Living near the poles: living at a place where days are short and nights are long, you are more prone to have disorder.
- Family history: it is usually seen to run in families
- Clinical depression or bipolar disorder
What are the complications of seasonal affective disorder?
Just like the normal classical depression it may be complicated if not treated well on time. The associated complications are:
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviour
- Social withdrawal
- School or work problems
- Substance or alcohol abuse
When to see a doctor?
Just like any other ailment you should seek the doctor as soon as possible if you feel there is something that is interfering with your daily life. Here are certain classical signs and symptoms, if you have any of these than you should certainly see a doctor.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Disturbed appetite
- Tendency towards alcohol for comfort and relaxation