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
* Negative thoughts and feelings
* Guilt and loss of self-esteem
* Hopelessness and despair
* Apathy

LETHARGY
* Fatigue

POOR COGNITIVE FUNCTION
* Difficulty concentrating
* Brain does not work as efficiently

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 WINTER BLUES, lethargy, sleep and eating problems occur, but depression and anxiety are absent or mild.

SAD can begin at any age and may be triggered by other factors such as illness, childbirth or change of environment.
It occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres but is very rare within 30 degrees of the Equator.

Some individuals may experience Summer (or Reverse) SAD and are affected by heat rather than light. The symptoms of this are anxiety, poor sleep, weight loss and agitation and it is a much rarer condition.


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