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Understanding the Basics of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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An extreme form of the winter blues, is referred to as seasonal affective disorder, and for short SAD. This is a particular variant of depression that takes place during the same time each year and brings with it lethargy, curtailing a person’s normal function. While it has only been recognized as an actual disorder recently, treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder have been given since back in 1982. Anyone who suffers from SAD will undergo an extreme change in their mood, which will fluctuate with the varying seasons. In some cases it will seem as though the individual was split in between a “winter person” and a “summer person.”

Even though a different type of SAD may occur during the summer months, the typical form, which is winter depression, will begin to show symptoms in the late portion of August or the early days of September. Additionally, this depression will continue on through the early portion of April. Those suffering from the disorder have been seen to increase the amount they sleep by as much as four hours each night and they typically also gain as much as 20 pounds due to their efforts to essentially “hibernate” the winter days away.

It is estimated that around 11 million people in the U.S. are affected by SAD and that as many as 25 million others suffer from the milder form of SAD, which is simply referred to as the winter blues. Additionally, studies have shown that up to four times more women suffer from the SAD disorder than men and it is a condition that seems to run in a person’s family.

A serious factor that may impact cases of SAD include the geographical location of the individual. This plays a large role in a person’s susceptibility to the SAD condition, as well. Individuals who live close to one of the poles seem to be much more prone to this condition. In fact, people who reside in the northern portion of the U.S. and Canada are as much as eight times more likely to be a victim of SAD than individuals who live in sunny and more temperate locations such as Mexico or Florida.

While there is no official cause for SAD, the most likely explanation involves an abnormality in the pathways of the bran that use neurotransmitters. During the shorter days of winter, the serotonin in the brain does not work as efficiently, resulting in these feelings of depression.

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