The most common example of SAD is the “winter blues”
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that was first described in the 1980s. Since then, there has been much confusion about it, because its symptoms are similar to those of clinical depression. In fact, the symptoms of SAD are sometimes so severe that clinical depression might be diagnosed by mistake.
However, even though depression and SAD have much in common, the following five facts distinguish one issue from the other:
- Just as the name implies, SAD is seasonal, so its symptoms only appear during certain times of the year. The most common example is the “winter blues,” a time when some people develop severe symptoms of depression that disappear as soon as the season changes.
Depressive episodes cannot be predicted, but those of SAD can. Someone with clinical depression will suffer from episodes throughout the year, sometimes without any apparent reason. On the other hand, SAD occurs in the same season, so it can be anticipated.
- With the exemption of some rare cases, the symptoms of SAD are easier to control, but similar treatments can address both issues
- SAD is often attributed to changes in the weather, daylight, temperature and other environmental factors; some theories even suggest that the condition may occur due to a hibernation response that early humans had. However, the causes of depression are varied and hard to determine until a comprehensive evaluation is completed.
- Depression is a dangerous illness, so close medical supervision is necessary whenever someone is diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. Sufferers must be careful, as the condition could recur throughout the year, and its consequences might be life threatening.
- Both conditions are dangerous, and medical attention should be obtained even if symptoms are mild.
- Both conditions encourage people to use drugs to counteract uncomfortable symptoms. Depression and addiction commonly co-occur, especially when people are not receiving any kind of treatment.
- With this fact in mind, many recovery programs treat co-occurring disorders, so patients with both addiction and mental health disorders receive attention for both issues simultaneously. As treatment becomes more comprehensive, the chances of lasting recovery improve.