For a lot of people, depressive episodes can occur at any time, either in response to a life stressor or spontaneously with no identifiable trigger. However, there are others whose episodes are more predictable because they typically occur at a particular time of year.
This type of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and as the name implies, many individuals with (SAD) have a seasonal component to their depression and may notice that they are experiencing depressive symptoms in the fall or winter with improvement in the spring, even without any kind of treatment. While rare, it is also possible to experience seasonal depression during the spring and summer months.
The symptoms of SAD are the same as a regular depressive episode where an individual experiences at least one of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks:
- Feeling down, or sad
- Inability to find joy in things they used to enjoy doing
Other depressive symptoms may include:
- Sleep disturbance (either decreased or increased)
- Decreased interests or pleasure
- Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Appetite or weight changes (decreased or increased)
- Feelings of restlessness or feeling like your movements are slowed
- Suicidal thoughts or hopelessness
In addition to the symptoms listed above, there may be some variation between the fall-onset SAD and spring-onset SAD.
Those who are dealing with fall-onset depression typically include features that are considered atypical such as increased appetite (especially increased carbohydrate cravings), weight gain, and sleeping more than usual.