When it gets colder and the days become shorter, we see less sunlight and prefer to stay indoors. The change of seasons and temperatures can also affect our mood and energy. Sleeping issues and persistent feeling of unhappiness are some of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as well as depression. Even though SAD is a recurrent major depressive disorder, which has a seasonal pattern, it is not the same as clinical depression. Read on to know the difference between seasonal affective disorder and depression.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at a specific time of year, usually during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight, says psychiatrist Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar.
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be linked to a lack of sunlight exposure. Reduced sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and affect the production of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, contributing to symptoms of SAD. According to a 2015 study published in the Depression Research and Treatment journal, women and those who live far from the equator are some of the people who are most at risk of experiencing SAD.
Common symptoms of SAD include –
Depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities, the expert tells Health Shots. It can affect various aspects of a person’s life, including their emotions, thoughts, and physical well-being. The causes of depression are complex and can involve a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Here are.some of them –
Depression symptoms include –
There are some differences between depression and seasonal affective disorder.
SAD is characterised by a seasonal pattern, usually occurring in fall and winter, whereas depression can occur at any time of the year, points out Dr Kakkar.
SAD is associated with reduced sunlight exposure. Depression is not necessarily linked to specific light conditions.
SAD often involves oversleeping and increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates. Depression may manifest as either oversleeping or insomnia and changes in appetite.
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SAD symptoms have a predictable onset and remission, aligning with seasons, whereas depression symptoms can develop more gradually and persist throughout the year.
While both conditions can be influenced by environmental factors, SAD is more closely tied to changes in seasons and light availability.
SAD is more prevalent in regions with distinct seasonal changes, says the expert. Depression, on the other hand, is a global phenomenon.
There are effective treatment options for seasonal affective disorder and depression.
Light therapy, where individuals are exposed to a bright light that mimics natural sunlight, is a common treatment. Psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants can also be effective, says the expert.
Treatment options include psychotherapy (counseling or talk therapy), medications (antidepressants), and lifestyle changes. If the case is severe, therapy and medication are both recommended by doctors.
While both depression and seasonal affective disorder share some common symptoms, the timing, environmental triggers, and specific manifestations distinguish them.