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The symptoms of SAD recur regularly each winter and usually start between September and November, continuing until March or April.

Diagnosis can usually be made after 3 or more consecutive winters of symptoms.
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Long periods of sunless skies at other times may also trigger episodes for some people.
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Light passes through the eye to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which controls a wide range of functions, so symptoms may include a number of the following:

DEPRESSION
* Low mood, worse than and different from normal sadness
* Negative thoughts and feelings
* Guilt and loss of self-esteem
* Hopelessness and despair
* Apathy

LETHARGY
* Fatigue, often making it difficult to do normal tasks

POOR COGNITIVE FUNCTION
* Difficulties with memory and concentration
* Brain does not work as efficiently or as quickly

ANXIETY
* Feelings of tension
* Inability to deal with stress

WINTER ILLNESSES
* Lowered immune system in winter
* More vulnerability to infections

SLEEP PROBLEMS
* The need to sleep more
* Oversleeping or difficulty staying awake during the day
* Disturbed sleep patterns and/or early morning awakening
* Insomnia

OVEREATING
* Increased desire for carbohydrates to boost mood
* Weight gain

SOCIAL PROBLEMS
* Increased irritability
* Finding it harder to be with people

LOSS OF LIBIDO
* Less interest in sex and physical contact

ALTERED MOOD IN SPRING (MAY VARY)

* Sudden lift in mood
* Agitation/Restlessness or short period of hypomania (over-activity)
* Gradual loss of winter symptoms

In SUB-SYNDROMAL SAD, symptoms such as lethargy, sleep and eating problems occur, but depression and anxiety are absent or mild.

SAD may begin at any age but the main age of onset is between 18 and 30 years. 
SAD occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres but is very rare within 30 degrees of the Equator, where daylight hours are long and bright.

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