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A gloomy day can put many people in a bad mood. But for a small percentage of the population, a whole season can spiral into a serious depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD strikes 1 to 10 percent of the population every year, according to a 2009 journal review in The Physician and Sportsmedicine.
Causes - SAD - Researchers - Clues - Reports
The causes behind SAD are still unknown, but researchers are learning more about its biological clues. Reports of successful treatments using light therapy have led to a theory that dwindling daylight hours during fall and winter months interrupts some people's circadian rhythms causing depression, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"People tend to feel the symptoms in the autumn and more severely in the winter," said Dr. Victor Fornari, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, New York. "Typically it lifts in springtime."
Symptoms - SAD - Depression - Hopelessness - Unhappiness
The symptoms of SAD are the same as those that accompany depression. Hopelessness, unhappiness, irritability, a lack of interest in usual hobbies, difficulty paying attention, fatigue and withdrawing from friends and family are all symptoms of SAD, Fornari said.
While some forms of depression contribute to weight loss, SAD sufferers often have increased appetite and weight gain. SAD is also marked by daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy.
Symptoms - SAD - Parallel - Symptoms - Depression
While many symptoms of SAD parallel symptoms of depression, SAD sufferers go through a yearly cycle of depressive symptoms followed by a time when they are free from symptoms.
"The first thing to recognize is having a day when you feel down is normal," Fornari said. "If you feel down for days at a time and you can't shake it, people should go see their primary care physician, especially if they have a disturbance in their sleep or if they're thinking about not wanting to live."
While sufferers may not experience...
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