Seasonal depression, sometimes known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression which is seasonally-linked. Many people think of winter depression when they hear about seasonal depression, because depression is very common in the winter months, especially at high latitudes where light is limited in the winter. However, people can also also experience seasonal depression in the summer, and it may take people with summer depression longer to realize the problem if they associate seasonal depression with the winter only.
Someone with seasonal depression experiences anxiety, fatigue, disinterest, and similar symptoms in the months leading up summer or winter. He or she tends to sleep a lot, eat heavy, starchy foods, and have trouble getting motivated. In the depth of the season, the depression may be severe and even debilitating. As the season ends, the patient experiences a mood improvement which can sometimes transition into mania. In order for someone to be diagnosed with seasonal depression, two or more years of a depressive pattern linked to the seasons must be present in the patient's history.
In a rare variation of seasonal depression known as reverse SAD, people experience mania during the summer months. Because seasonal depression often involves transitions between depression and mania, it can be a precursor for bipolar disorder, and in some cases, people who really have bipolar disorder may be misdiagnosed with seasonal depression, and vice versa. The treatments for these two mood disorders are very different, making a proper diagnosis critical.
For winter depression, patients seem to benefit from light therapy, including dawn simulations which are used to make the patient feel like there's more light in the day. Antidepressant medications may also be used, along with psychotherapy to give the patient an opportunity to talk about issues which may be provoking additional anxiety and depression. Summer depression or mania is typically treated with psychotherapy and medication.
People are sometimes shy to seek help for depression, especially in the case of seasonally-linked issues, because they are embarrassed or they think that they will push through it. It is not necessary to suffer from depression without assistance, and people may find their quality of life greatly improved with the assistance of a mental health professional and a few small lifestyle changes. Coping with seasonal depression can also help people be more productive at work or school during periods of depression, which can be very beneficial.