What are the symptoms and causes of seasonal affective disorder?

Evidently, the onset of winter doesn’t bring with it only shorter, colder, darker and drearier days. Many people associate the cold winter months with feelings of lethargy, hunger and the blues – and a more severe yet similar condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Seasonal affective disorder is a fairly common phenomenon. The main difference between the blues and SAD is that SAD is accompanied by more severe symptoms. According to one estimate, women are approximately four times more likely to come down with the seasonal blues than are men. Decreased sunlight is the cause behind this mild form of depression. People who end up with a case of the winter blues begin to experience the symptoms in the fall. Generally, the symptoms begin to disappear once spring begins to bloom. Physiologically, unstable serotonin and melatonin levels bring about the change in mood. Melatonin is a hormone that’s created while you’re asleep. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that’s in charge of sleep, hunger and mood. While the symptoms experienced during the winter blues aren’t as serious as those of a long-term depression, they can still have a negative impact on a person’s state of mind and way of life. Furthermore, this mild wintertime funk can become more severe due to lack of exercise, overeating, isolation and heavy drinking.

Several symptoms are associated with the winter blues. Some things to look out for if you think you may be coming down with either the winter blues or SAD include: difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, trouble with performing tasks that are usually easy and enjoyable, growing feelings of sluggishness and fatigue, and problems with being able to concentrate or think creatively. Frequently and incorrectly blaming yourself whenever something goes wrong is another symptom associated with this mood disorder.