Test Your Knowledge: How Much Do You Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder?

First described as a medical condition in 1984, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is now listed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a type of major depression. Test your knowledge of this condition with this quiz (answers are given at the bottom).

1. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can only affect you during winter months.


2) How much of the adult population in the United States suffers from SAD?

A) 1 percentB) 1 to 10 percentC) 10 to 20 percentD) 20 to 25 percent

3) How does SAD differ from clinical depression?

A) SAD is not like depression at all it has an entirely different set of symptoms.B) SAD is a milder illness, and patients with it are unlikely to experience major depression.C) SAD is just like depression except for the time of the year it occurs.D) Patients with SAD cannot be treated with antidepressant medications, but people with depression can.

4) Psychiatrists sometimes call SAD is also called "winter blues" or "cabin fever."


5) Which of the following are symptoms of SAD?

A) Loss of interest in activitiesB) Diminished ability to concentrateC) Weight gainD) All of the above

6) Which of the following have proven to be effective treatment for SAD?

A) Light therapyB) AntidepressantsC) Regular exerciseD) Cognitive Behavioral TherapyE) All of the above

7) Tanning beds effectively treat SAD.


8) Some rodents show signs of seasonal depression.


9) Women are more likely than men to experience SAD.


10) SAD is an adult disease.

TrueFalse11) SAD might be linked to a deficiency of which vitamin?

A) Vitamin AB) Vitamin DC) Vitamin KD) Vitamin C

12) Despite hailing from northern latitudes, the people of which Nordic country shows a surprising lack of seasonal mood changes?

a) Denmarkb) Swedenc) Icelandd) Finland


1. False: Although SAD is sometimes considered a "winter depression" because most sufferers experience it during the winter, it can occur during other seasons. SAD simply means that symptoms occur at the same time every year.

2. B: According to a 2009 review in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine, about 1 to 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected by SAD in its most marked form, which is more likely to occur in northern latitudes. However, the "winter blues" a milder form of seasonal mood change affects about 14 percent of the population.

3. C: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorizes SAD not as a unique mood disorder, but as a type of major depression. The difference is that with SAD, both the onset and full remission occur at the same times each year.

4. False: SAD is a type of clinical depression, and is different from cabin fever and the blues.

5. D: Loss of interest, weight gain and diminished ability to think or concentrate are all signs of SAD. In addition, SAD patients may also experience symptoms different from those of clinical depression. For example, they may sleep an average of 2.5 hours more during the affected season (as opposed to the general population, which sleeps 0.7 hours more in the winter), or excessively crave carbohydrates.

6. E: Though not all treatments work equally well for all patients, exercise, light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications have all been shown to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

7. False: Although light therapy is recommended for treating SAD, it uses specialized light therapy boxes that mimic ambient, outdoor light. The American Academy of Family Physicians discourages the use of tanning beds to treat SAD. The beds' high-intensity ultraviolet rays do not alleviate SAD, and may hurt your eyes and your skin.

8. True: Although there are no animal models for SAD research, Siberian hamsters, fat sand rats, Nile grass rats, Wistar rats and many seasonally breeding rodents display depression-like symptoms when exposed to short days.

9. True: SAD is more than three times more common among women than men, according to 1995 article in the journal Depression.

10. False: Although SAD is more common among older teens and young adults, with its onset likely to occur around the early 20s, it can also affect children and young teens, according to a 1998 article in The Lancet.

11. B: Some studies have suggested that low levels of vitamin D are associated with poor mood. However, the exact nature between depression and vitamin D is still part of ongoing research.

12. C: According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, SAD is less common in Iceland than in countries at lower latitudes, and along the East Coast of the United States. And according to a presentation at the sixth meeting of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, SAD is less common among Icelandic descendants living in Winnipeg, Canada.

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Live Science Staff
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