seasonal affective disorder

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seasonal affective disorder

(SAD), recurrent fall or winter depression characterized by excessive sleeping, social withdrawal, depression, overeating, and pronounced weight gain. SAD effects an estimated 6% of Americans; for reasons not yet understood, 80% of those affected are women. Most children who are affected have a close relative who also has SAD or another psychiatric condition. The disorder particularly affects people who live in the upper latitudes.

Although the mechanism of the disorder is not perfectly understood, it is known to be a reaction to the biological effects of light on the body (see biorhythmbiorhythm
or biological rhythm,
cyclic pattern of changes in physiology or in activity of living organisms, often synchronized with daily, monthly, or yearly environmental changes.
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). Daily, or circadian, rhythms help animals keep track of the seasonal changes in the environment, such as the shortening of days in winter, so that they can make the adaptive changes necessary for their survival in each season. Two substances, the hormone melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin, are a part of this process and are being studied for a possible role in SAD. Melatonin is secreted by the pineal glandpineal gland
, small organ (about the size of a pea) situated in the brain. Long considered vestigial in humans, the structure, which is also called the pineal body or the epiphysis, is present in most vertebrates.
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, which is in turn controlled by an area (the suprachiasmatic nuclei) of the hypothalamushypothalamus
, an important supervisory center in the brain, rich in ganglia, nerve fibers, and synaptic connections. It is composed of several sections called nuclei, each of which controls a specific function.
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; the hypothalamus, among other things, performs a clocklike function in the body. The eye's retinal nerves are connected to this area. Melatonin is secreted chiefly at night, and its secretion is suppressed by light. Secretion of the neurotransmitter serotonin declines in the winter and may undergo abnormal declines in those with SAD; concentrations of serotonin are increased by bright light. Serotonin is especially active in the hypothalamus. Decreased sensitivity of the retina has also been implicated as a cause of SAD.

Treatment with bright light (about five to twenty times brighter than normal lighting) often alleviates symptoms within a period of days. Unwieldy lighting paraphernalia has given way to smaller, portable light boxes and lighted visors. Doses range from 30 minutes to a few hours per day, often undergone in the morning to simulate the dawn.

seasonal affective disorder

[¦sēz·ēn·əl a¦fek·tiv dis′ȯrd·ər]
(psychology)
A syndrome of annually repeating depressive symptoms (usually overeating, oversleeping, and carbohydrate craving) that are related to changes in the season and are responsive to light therapy. Also known as winter depression.
References in periodicals archive ?
A recommended treatment for those suffering with SAD or winter blues is blue and white light therapy - and while you can get this in clinics for a couple of hundred pounds, the Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 Wake-up Light does just the same for PS60 (John Lewis).
But, what we eat can help to ease the symptoms of the winter blues.
People who have the winter blues often crave the amino acid tryptophan, says professor Annie Farmer, who runs a seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, a sometimes severe form of winter blues) clinic in London.
The good news is people are calling the EAP for help in record numbers, getting practical information on beating the winter blues and counseling for depression and other behavioral or relationship issues.
Most scientists agree that the winter blues are linked to the body's response to reduced daylight.
Rosenthal (psychiatry, Georgetown Medical School), who suffers from SAD, and Benton, a freelance writer and editor, supplement Rosenthal's book Winter Blues with this workbook on seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
I would like to encourage them to attend my laughter club and beat those winter blues.
One of the things that helps people get over the winter blues when the temperatures drop and the snowfall thickens is the search for a summer holiday.
population suffers from winter blues, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
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Summary: Dreaming about holidays is the most popular way Britons cope with the winter blues, a new survey has revealed.