Seasonal Affective Disorder affects people when seasons change, typically from summer to fall or fall to winter.
According to Allison Lockard, a counselor and certified victim’s advocate at Florida A&M University’s Sunshine Manor, SAD usually affects those who live in places that have the conventional four season cycle.
“It is basically a depression that comes with the changing of the seasons,” Lockard said. “Typically it influences those who live places that have the traditional four seasons. Simply stated once the winter comes the outside setting becomes grey and dreary and the persons’ mood will match the presence of their surroundings.”
Jessica Garibay, an information specialist for the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association, said that the symptoms of SAD are not much different from regular depression.
“SAD symptoms are generally the same as any other form of depression,” she said. “This may include prolonged sadness, significant appetite change, weight gain, loss of energy, feelings of guilty or indecisiveness, abnormal aches and pains, and thoughts of death or suicide.”
Jermaine Robertson, a FAMU psychology professor, said any series of events can trigger the SAD cycle.
“It’s a mood disorder and it may not always be a biological ideology,” he said. “Many people lose loved ones, and this time of year sometimes can trigger SAD.”
Much like any disorder SAD affects people in various severities, but Robertson said that individuals who have lost loved ones are usually affected the most.
“Like most disorders, it tends to affect different people differently, some argue that people who have lost loved ones around this time are more prone to the disorder,” Robertson said. “However, there is not much evidence to prove that a specific group of people are more prone than others to suffer from SAD, but I have read that people in higher latitudes are more at risk than people who live in lower latitudes.”
SAD affects people in cycles and they typically feel better once the season changes to spring or summer–the change is gradual.
Many use various means, such as medication, to deal with the disorder.
Robertson said treatments may include traditional therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and light therapy.
Lockard said light therapy is the most affective remedy for SAD, and can be expensive.
“The purpose of light therapy is to mimic the sun,” Lockard said.
Often times light boxes are prescribed to sufferers of SAD. Robertson said it could help.
“Some people are told to sleep with light boxes on, this is supposed to stimulate them to help restore feelings felt during summer and spring months,” he said. “It can, like most mood disorders, result in suicide. It may not be typical, but it is very possible”
Robertson said the SAD cycle comes and goes with the seasons, and some may only suffer from the disorder’s cycle for a few years.
“It is a transitional period, both coming in and going out, and people who suffer from SAD most realize that the cure is not immediate,” he said. “A person suffering from SAD will not automatically feel better just because the spring equinox has begun. More severe cases may need hospital treatment.”