SAD Comparable to Major Depressive Disorder
> 11/21/2007 8:57:49 AM

Itís common to feel depressed when the weather turns cold and dark, but seasonal affective disorders (SAD), which affects an estimated 5% of the population, causes serious emotional and cognitive changes that can be helped through treatment. SAD is actually a subcategory of other mood disorders in which symptoms (increased appetite, sleepiness, loss of interest in activities and other symptoms of depression) occur in association with a specific season, usually winter. In a recent study, researchers found that although individuals with SAD rarely receive treatment, the cognitive failures they experienced as a result of SAD were significant and comparable to the cognitive failures experienced by those with major depressive disorder.

The study
, which appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, took place during a cold and overcast November in the Midwest and involved 93 participants, all college students between the ages of 18 and 22. The participantís took the Beck Depression Inventory and the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire and were then classified into three groups: those who met the criteria for major depressive disorder, those who met the criteria for SAD, and those who did not meet the criteria for either. The participants also took the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire. Cognitive failures, having difficulty with everyday tasks involving memory, attention, perception, or motor function, may not seem dangerous, but they can interfere with an individual's ability to function at home and work and may also result in accidents and falls. Those with SAD had similar scores on the Cognitive failures Questionnaire, with an average score of 43 out of 100, as those with major depressive disorder, who had an average score of 50. Those without either disorder had an average score of 31. Overall, SAD was the most common disorder, affecting 28% of participants, while major depressive disorder only affected 8.6%. Despite its prevalence, however, only three who met the criteria for SAD had been previously diagnosed and received treatment. Of those who met the criteria for major depressive disorder, only one had not been diagnosed and received treatment.

The participants with SAD had similar scores on both the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory as those with major depressive disorder, which indicates the serious nature of SAD. Yet, despite its relationship with major depressive disorder, many with SAD do not seek treatment, perhaps because we tend to view SAD as an unimportant disorder. This study's results reminds us that SAD is a subcategory of mood disorders, and as such it arrives with similar symptoms. The study involved a specific group (young college students in the Midwest), so we cannot say that these results apply to everyone. However, anyone living in an area where seasonal changes are dramatic should be careful not to overlook the signs of SAD. Cognitive failures, along with emotional stress, can make the winter months unbearable, but treatment can help.

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