What are the DSM-5 criteria for the diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Updated: Oct 07, 2019
  • Author: Jerry L Halverson, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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About 70% of depressed people feel worse during the winter and better during the summer. To meet the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria [2] for major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, depression should be present only at a specific time of year (e.g., in the fall or winter) and full remission occurs at a characteristic time of year (e.g., spring). An individual should demonstrate at least 2 episodes of depressive disturbance in the previous 2 years, and seasonal episodes should substantially outnumber nonseasonal episodes. Patients with seasonal affective disorder are more likely to report atypical symptoms, such as hypersomnia, increased appetite, and a craving for carbohydrates.

Cases where there is an obvious effect of seasonally related psychosocial stressors, (e.g., seasonal unemployment) do not meet the diagnostic criteria.

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