November 2, 2006
ATLANTA – Beginning around October, many Georgians can expect less daylight and more days of depression. This type of depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), usually begins in the fall and ends in April, as the days lengthen. In Georgia, about eight in 100 meet the criteria for SAD, yet an estimated 80% are incorrectly diagnosed.
"Many people with SAD are diagnosed with major depression or bipolar disorder because symptoms are very similar," said Dr. Andrea Bradford, Medical Director for the State Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. "This can result in inappropriate treatment and medications."
Like major depression and bipolar disorder, SAD symptoms include irritability, sadness, anxiety, and a need for more sleep. A doctor will base his or her diagnosis on whether a person has been depressed in the winter and recovered in the spring or summer for at least two years in a row. These dramatic mood swings in response to changes in seasons are what differentiate SAD from nonseasonal depression.
"The advantage to being accurately diagnosed with SAD is that you can begin treating the condition prior to the change of seasons in order to better manage the depression. In addition, you will not have to be treated year-round because you know the depression will lift by spring or summer," said Bradford.
It is believed that SAD is caused by the shorter days of winter and lack of natural light. Other causes include disturbances in the body’s natural biological clock and chemical imbalances in the brain. Between 60% and 90% of sufferers from SAD are women, and those who have a relative with the condition are more likely to develop it. Common treatments include light therapy and antidepressant medications for more severe forms of SAD.
Georgians interested in seeking mental health services can access the new statewide help and crisis line at 1-800-715-4225.
For information, contact:
Kenya Bello; 404.657.1389