Bipolar and Seasonal Affective Disorders, Differences and Causes

In some ways, bipolar disorder and SAD can look very similar, especially when someone with bipolar disorder is depressed.

This Mental Health Guide will help you understand bipolar and seasonal affective disorders, their causes and treatments.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a mental state that shifts from depressed to manic. It is more than just being “moody” or experiencing the ups and downs in moods that most people do. Bipolar is far more intense. The periods of depression or mania last months at a time, not just days or weeks.

The causes of bipolar are not entirely understood. There seems to be a genetic component since it is found in families. A chemical imbalance in the brain is believed to play a significant role. It may be that the brain does not effectively produce or use endorphins, and neurotransmitters may not function properly.

Other causes that have been suggested for bipolar disorder include life trauma, loss and chronic stress from something like a lengthy illness. Substance abuse may also be a cause for some – and it is also a result in some cases.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is seasonal depression during winter. It is caused by actual biological effects in your body of reduced daylight or sunlight. In northern climates and climates with fewer days of sunshine, SAD is reported in higher numbers.

SAD is more than just feeling “blue” because the sun hasn’t been shining. The level of depression can be quite intense. Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed in men and women across the age spectrum, but women in their 20s are the group with the highest reported numbers. Depression, irritability, anxiety, social withdrawal and weight gain are all symptoms.

The Relationship Between Bipolar and SAD

According to leading studies, about 20% of bipolar sufferers experience a seasonal component to their mood. As days get shorter and there is less light, some people with bipolar disorder will experience seasonal depression. When spring and longer days return, they may experience mania or hypomania.

Most people with bipolar disorder cannot anticipate mood shifts based on the season. And most people with seasonal affective disorder do not experience the manic moods associated with bipolar.

If you believe that you or someone you care about is suffering from seasonal affective disorder or bipolar disorder, help is available. There are effective treatments for both bipolar and SAD including medication and/or therapy. See your doctor about your concerns. He or she can help you find the treatment you need.

Learn more about personality disordersmood disorderseating disordersanxiety & stress,substance abuse and also childhood disorders, please visit our helpful articles and guides.