If you live in Alaska, chances are you’ve had a friend or a family member experience the “winter blues.” In fact, 9% of Alaskans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as “SAD.” So what is it? Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year.¬†Another term for Seasonal Affective Disorder is “seasonal depression.”

It is most common to experience seasonal depression in the days leading up to the winter months, however, summer cases are not out of the question. Symptoms of winter SAD begin to appear as early as late fall, get progressively worse during the winter, and disappear in the spring or summer. Summer SAD symptoms follow a reverse schedule, beginning in late spring or early summer and ending in the fall.

As a subtype of Major Depression, seasonal depression has the same symptoms. Seasonal depression differs from Major Depression where symptoms occur alongside the winter or summer months, and they are much more frequent during those months than during other parts of the year. Although Major Depression shares symptoms with winter and summer SAD, there are some unique ways in which those symptoms manifest themselves depending on the season.

Symptoms of Major Depression

  • Feeling depressed for the majority of the day, almost every day of the week
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities once found enjoyable
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Changes in desire for food
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feeling lethargic or agitated
  • Struggling to maintain focus
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter SAD is characterized by more lethargic behavior. Symptoms include:

  • Having low energy
  • Oversleeping and/or experiencing abnormal levels of sleepiness during the day
  • Arms and legs feel like they are made of led
  • Eating more than is necessary
  • Weight gain
  • Craving foods high in carbohydrates
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Hypersensitivity to being rejected

Symptoms of Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

Summer SAD is almost the opposite of winter SAD, symptoms including:

  • Lack of desire for food accompanied by weight loss
  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling agitated
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Violence

If you think your teen may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, reach out to your doctor. There are treatment options available. Talk with friends and family members who have expressed that they are experiencing the “winter blues.” Having a support network of people who have gone through similar experiences is important for remembering that you are not alone.