Cabin fever is a common complaint during the winter months. Many people also eat and sleep more during this time of year. People with these mild symptoms are often said to have the winter blues. Those who go into a deep depression during the winter are frequently diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

SAD begins to set in around mid to late fall, when the days start getting much shorter. Symptoms usually last until spring. It is virtually the same as clinical depression except that its symptoms do not last all year. Following are some of the symptoms of SAD:

* Fatigue and Changes in Sleep Patterns – Those with depression often experience fatigue and decreased energy. These factors, as well as sensitivity to seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight each day, can cause those with SAD to sleep more. They may also have difficulty waking up in the mornings and feel sleepy during the day.

* Increased Appetite – Those with SAD often have an increase in appetite during the winter months. This in turn leads to weight gain, another common symptom of both depression and SAD. SAD sufferers may also have intense cravings for carbohydrates.

* Difficulty Concentrating – This is one of the most noticeable symptoms of SAD. Sufferers may be unable to concentrate when working, participating in hobbies or even having conversations with others. While the sufferer themselves may not always notice it, the people around them likely will.

* Moodiness – Those with depression or SAD are usually irritable or sad. Friends and family members can help by pointing out any persistent changes in mood. They may notice them before the sufferer does.

* Reduced Interest in Activities – Depression often results in a person losing interest in things that were once important to them. Hobbies, social activities and sex are some areas in life where this may occur. Depressed individuals are typically sensitive to social rejection and that may lead them to avoid going out in public as much as possible.

* Relationship Problems – As a result of many of the other symptoms, those with SAD may have problems with the relationships in their lives. This is true not only for romantic relationships but also for relationships with friends and family.

* Worsening of PMS Symptoms – Women with SAD who also suffer from PMS could have an increased incidence or greater intensity of symptoms. The symptoms of both disorders are quite similar. When the two are experienced at the same time they are compounded.

If you have several of these symptoms during the winter months with an improvement in the spring and summer, you may have SAD. A doctor can determine what type of treatment would be best for you. Light therapy, changes in diet and herbs may alleviate SAD without the use of harsh prescription drugs.

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