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Sensory processing sensitivity and its association with seasonal affective disorder

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It has been hypothesized that an increased sensitivity to the surroundings, can leave some individuals vulnerable to experience the environmental stress of winter more overwhelming, thus leading to a greater risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). However, the association between trait Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) and SAD is not known. We therefore aimed to investigate: 1)cross-seasonal group differences in trait SPS, in 31 individuals with SAD compared to 30 age-, gender- and education-matched healthy controls, and 2)the association between trait SPS in remitted phase (summer) and depression severity in symptomatic phase (winter) in individuals with SAD. All participants completed the Highly Sensitive Person Scale, as a measure of SPS, and the Major Depression Inventory in summer and in winter, using a longitudinal and seasonally counterbalanced design. In both remitted and symptomatic phase, individuals with SAD exhibited higher trait SPS compared to healthy controls, which for individuals with SAD was heightened during depression in winter. Notably, when averaged across season, about 25% of the individuals with SAD display high-sensitivity whereas this is only the case for 5% of the healthy controls. In addition, higher trait SPS in summer was associated with more severe SAD symptoms in winter. Our findings suggest that those with SAD are more likely to score high on SPS and that high SPS may be a vulnerability marker related to more severe SAD symptomatology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume272
Pages (from-to)359-364
Number of pages6
ISSN0165-1781
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

ID: 56309524