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Diagnosing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Jan 23, 2008
Diagnosing Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be rather difficult because it is hard to distinguish it from other forms of depression. Before doctors can do diagnoses on a patient, typically they will have to rule out other medical conditions. SAD is not necessarily a separate mood disorder from major depression or bipolar disorder and therefore it can be diagnosed as a subtype of each of these.

Diagnosing seasonal affective disorder correctly depends on whether:

- the patient has experienced depression and other symptoms for a minimum two
consecutive years and during the same season;
- whether or not those periods of depression have been followed by periods without
depression;
- and ruling out other explanations for the changes in their mood

The doctor will do a complete physical examination and will do a thorough medical history on the patient. It is absolutely critical to share your information with the doctor and you must make sure that you are following their recommendations exactly so that you are able to make it through this tough time. Most likely they will ask many questions about your mood, seasonal changes in your thoughts and behavior, your lifestyle and social situation, as well as your sleeping and eating patterns.

As stated earlier...diagnosing SAD is very hard because its symptoms often mimic other types of depression. But rest assured that doctors have guidelines, developed by the American Psychiatric Association, that help them to diagnose the disorder. If you are not sure of your doctor's opinion you most certainly will want to get a second opinion, especially if you do not agree with his diagnoses.

Usually the depressive symptoms of SAD begin during fall or winter, and end when spring arrives. During other months of the year a person's mood might be normal, or will not meet criteria for clinical depression. Those who have SAD will have a have a lack of energy or feel sluggish during the winter months. In addition, they may sleep more than usual, overeat and gain weight, or they may have a craving for carbohydrates. Women have seasonal affective disorder at a rate of 60%-90% of those affected. SAD rates are higher in those who live at higher altitudes and occur more frequently in younger people, often beginning in a person's twenties.

Typically the treatments will vary from patient to patient for seasonal affective disorder. Most people will feel differently when they are going through the disorder and no two cases are alike. Once the doctor has eliminated everything else, only then can they begin the right type of treatment for a patient allowing them get on the right track for a better and more efficient lifestyle.
About the Author
For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) visit our comprehensive website at "Budget Tools & Strategies for Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder"
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