Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs in individuals during the same season each year. Typically, the symptoms of SAD begin in early fall and continue into the winter, but some individuals experience SAD during the spring and summer months.
The symptoms of SAD include:
Feelings of hopelessness
Grumpy, mood or anxious behavior
Drop in energy level
Avoidance of social situations
These symptoms may also be caused by other conditions. If you are experiencing several of these symptoms, please seek an evaluation by a physician. The causes of SAD are not fully known. For some patients, SAD may develop due to the reduced amount of sunlight exposure during the fall and winter months, leading to a disruption in the patient’s circadian rhythm.
An imbalance of serotonin levels or melatonin levels are also thought to play a role in developing SAD. Therapies to treat SAD include phototherapy (light therapy), medication, and psychotherapy (talk therapy). In most cases, patients will begin with light therapy, which requires sitting near a light therapy box in order to be exposed to bright light.
Individuals may begin to see improvements in symptoms within several days or a few weeks. An antidepressant drug, such as the extended-release formulation of bupropion or a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI ), may be prescribed, especially for those with severe symptoms.
Your physician may recommend that you start taking one of these antidepressants prior to the onset of your symptoms each year or taking the medication even beyond the season that you experience symptoms.
Psychotherapy (talk therapy) may also be beneﬁcial. This may include replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and identifying pleasurable activities that can make coping with the seasonal changes a bit easier.
Finally, lifestyle changes may also help in improving the symptoms of SAD, for example:
Getting outside whenever possible but especially early in your day
Brightening your environment by opening blinds or sitting near a window
Exercising to help relieve stress and anxiety.