Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern
Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern (formerly called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) is similar in some ways to depression. People with MDD with a Seasonal Pattern have recurrent depressive episodes during a certain time of year, most often during the late fall and winter, with a normal mood the rest of the year.
What does MDD with a Seasonal Pattern look like?
While some symptoms are similar to depression, some differ. For example, with classic depression, people tend to sleep less. With MDD with a Seasonal Pattern, people tend to sleep more. Symptoms can include:
- Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Daytime fatigue
- Weight gain
- Decreased sexual interest
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in usual activities
What causes MDD with a Seasonal Pattern?
There is some research that suggests MDD with a Seasonal Pattern could be a response to the decrease in sunlight that occurs during fall and winter. Light therapy is often suggested as a treatment option.
How do I know if I have MDD with a Seasonal Pattern?
The key identifier of MDD with a Seasonal Pattern is the pattern. To be properly diagnosed, the seasonal episodes have to occur for at least two years, and you cannot have non-seasonal episodes within the same timeframe. If you have noticed this pattern of symptoms in your life, reach out to your doctor. They can determine your diagnosis and help you get connected to treatment options.
How is MDD with a Seasonal Pattern treated?
Like classic depression, medication, psychotherapy and exercise are recommended treatment options. Light therapy is a treatment option specific to MDD with a Seasonal Pattern, and it includes daily exposure to a light that simulates high-intensity sunlight.
When you have identified your seasonal pattern, you can also plan ahead in preparation of symptoms. You can increase exercise, begin treatments early or plan a getaway to somewhere sunny. If you know it’s coming, you can do what you can before to minimize your symptoms.
Treatment differs for every patient. Some people may only receive treatment during their season of symptoms. Others choose year-round treatment.