Answers to Common Depression and Anxiety Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about depression and anxiety.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Dr. Allen discusses seasonal affective disorder. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Seasonal affective disorder – known as SAD – is a type of depression that can be brought on by certain seasons, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

The most common type of SAD is called winter-onset depression, which has symptoms that usually start in late fall and go away by the time summer arrives. Winter-onset SAD affects 90 percent of all the people who have SAD, according to the AAFP.

Summer-onset depression is much less common and lasts from late spring through the winter, according to the AAFP.

It is believed that the amount of daylight during different times of the year is what causes SAD, which affects between 4 percent and 6 percent of Americans, according to the AAFP.

For more about information seasonal affective disorder, talk with your physician.

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What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Dr. Allen discusses symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can vary from person to person, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

However, the AAFP has identified some of the most common symptoms of people suffering from winter-onset SAD, which include:

  • anxiety
  • avoidance of social situations
  • change in appetite to crave sweet or starchy foods
  • decrease in energy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue
  • feeling of guilt
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • irritability
  • loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • sensitivity to social rejection
  • tendency to oversleep
  • weight gain

People affected by summer-onset SAD, according to the AAFP, often have symptoms including:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

These symptoms usually return every year as the seasons change for people affected by SAD, according to the AAFP.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

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Who is at risk for developing seasonal affective disorder?

Though anyone can have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it usually doesn’t affect people younger than 20, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

The risk of SAD decreases as a person gets older, according to the AAFP. People in northern regions with long, harsh winter months are more prone to having SAD.

Overall, SAD is more common among people who are already more likely to suffer from depression, according to Premier Physician Network[Link to http://www.premierhealthnet.com/ in a new window with off site icon and 3rd party content disclaimer] physicians. Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression, so they also are more likely to have SAD.

For more information about who is at risk of seasonal affective disorder, talk with your doctor.

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Can seasonal affective disorder lead to a more serious form of depression?

For most people, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) comes and goes with seasonal changes, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Sometimes, however, SAD becomes long-term depression, according to the NIH. Occasionally, it also can lead to bipolar disorder or thoughts of suicide.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how seasonal affective disorder can lead to more serious kinds of depression.

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Can anxiety be hereditary?

One of the risk factors for developing anxiety is having a close biological relative who also has anxiety, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Though there is no specific proof that anxiety is hereditary, there is some evidence of familial tendencies, according to Premier HealthNet (PPN) physicians.

So, while there is not proof of a hereditary connection, it could be a learned behavior a child picks up from adults in their environment, according to PPN physicians.

For more information about whether anxiety is hereditary, talk with your physician.

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When does anxiety become a disorder?

Not all anxiety is a disorder, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Anxiety disorders happen when excessive anxiety gets in the way of a person doing everyday activities, such as going to work, going to school, or even spending time with family and friends, according to the NIH.

Anxiety disorders are serious mental illnesses and need to be cared for as such, according to the NIH.

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Explain generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

There are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders, each of which has slightly different symptoms.

The National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH) describes them in the following ways:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – People with this disorder have excessive anxiety or worry for months at a time. The symptoms they have include:
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Lack of concentration
    • Muscle tension
    • Restlessness
    • Sleep problems
  • Panic disorder – This disorder causes recurring, unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear. These attacks can include pounding heart, sweating, shaking, feelings of shortness of breath, and an overwhelming feeling of a kind of impending doom. The symptoms people with panic disorder have include:
    • Fear and avoidance of places where panic attacks have happened
    • Feeling out of control
    • Intense worries about next panic attack
    • Sudden, repeated sense of intense fear
  • Social anxiety disorder – People with this disorder have a fear of social situations where they think they will feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or concerned about offending others around them. The symptoms they have include:
    • Avoiding places with other people
    • Being self-conscious in front of others
    • Blushing, sweating, shaking around other people
    • Difficulty making and keeping friends
    • Difficulty talking to other people in social settings
    • Fear of judgement
    • Having nausea when around other people
    • High anxiety about being around other people
    • Worries about embarrassment and humiliation
    • Worrying for days or weeks before an event with people

Talk to your doctor to learn more about these anxiety disorders.

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What does it mean to have the winter blues?

With shorter days and less sunlight, winter can lead to serious mood changes for some of us. 

Having the winter blues means feeling sad and generally more down in the dumps, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Winter blues isn’t something that is medically diagnosed, but more of an understood feeling we can sometimes have during winter months that is usually short-lived.

Many times, it can be caused by a combination of not only less sunlight but also stressful holidays or the absence of loved ones who have passed away, according to the NIH.

For more information about winter blues, talk with your doctor.

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What are symptoms of winter blues?

Winter blues can make you feel down in the dumps compared to being cheery or chipper, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

If you have winter blues, some symptoms you might notice could include:

  • Depression
  • Low energy
  • Moodiness
  • Overeating
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Sluggishness
  • Tiredness

For more information about symptoms of winter blues, talk with your doctor.

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Are there things you can do to reduce the risk of feeling down during the winter months?

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re facing a case of the winter blues. Talk to your doctor about how to reduce the risk of feeling bummed out during winter months.

According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), some things that might work to reduce your risk could include:

  • Eating and drinking in moderation
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Going for a walk
  • Having lunch with friends
  • Taking a time-out from social media
  • Taking vitamin D
  • Using light therapy
  • Visiting a therapist or counselor
  • Volunteering in your community
  • Working out regularly

Talk with your doctor to learn more about reducing your risk of getting the winter blues.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about depression and anxiety:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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