Feature Article

Seasonal affective disorder

Feature Article

Seasonal affective disorder

Philip M Boyce

Abstract

Seasonal affective disorder is characterised by depression during the shorter day length of the winter months and remitting symptoms in the spring or summer. Phototherapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for this condition.

Key Points

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been identified in people in many countries, including Australia.
  • The onset of SAD typically occurs in young adulthood and it affects women more commonly than men.
  • The patient needs to be able to accurately recall his or her symptom history, particularly the timing of episodes, in order for a diagnosis of SAD to be made.
  • There are several competing hypotheses for the cause of SAD including circadian rhythm disruption and altered neurotransmitter function.
  • Bright light therapy, or phototherapy, is the current first-line treatment for patients with SAD.