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Seasonal Anxiety Disorder


Seasonal anxiety disorder is more commonly known by the name seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a mood disorder that affects people seasonally, as one season ends and another begins.

General symptoms of seasonal anxiety disorder depend upon which season the patient is affected by, but in general might include hopelessness, disturbances in sleep, depression, and fatigue. This mood disorder is recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a subtype of depression.

It is believed that SAD is related to brain chemistry. Estimates regarding how many adults in the United States suffer from SAD range from one percent to as high as ten percent.

Season-Specific Symptoms

Typically, symptoms of SAD are season-specific, and the likes of the Mayo Clinic specify symptoms for 'winter depression' (fall and winter) and 'summer depression (spring and summer)

Symptoms of Winter Depression

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of winter depression include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy feeling in limbs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Excess sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Problems concentrating

Symptoms of Summer Depression

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of summer depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Heightened sex drive

Treatment Options for SAD

A couple of treatment options are available for people who suffer from SAD. Psychotherapy is considered to be a treatment option but is not typically used because of the perceived association between SAD and brain chemistry. Otherwise, patients diagnosed with SAD tend to be treated with phototherapy or pharmacologic interventions.


Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, consists of exposing the patient to a specialized type of bright light for a specific period of time. It is believed that being exposed to light can trigger the proper chemicals linked to our moods. It is considered the most effective form of therapy for SAD.


Phototherapy is considered first-line therapy for SAD but some have found medications to be effective therapies for SAD as well.

The drugs prescribed in these cases are likely to be antidepressants such as Effexor, Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac.

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