Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Coping with the Changing Seasons

 In Mental Health, Primary Health Care


Do you feel yourself getting a little down as the winter gets near? You may have seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons and usually begins at the start of winter. In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Patients with winter SAD seldom require hospitalization, have psychotic symptoms or are at risk of suicide. However, most patients do experience marked impairment of functioning at work and in their social relations.

While there are no exact causes of SAD, some scientists think that certain hormones made deep in the brain trigger attitude-related changes at certain times of year. It is more common in women than men.


Fall and winter signs and symptoms of SAD include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and summer signs and symptoms of SAD include:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

Traditional antidepressants are often used to treat seasonal depression. Many doctors recommend that people with SAD get outside early in the morning to get more natural light. If this is impossible because of the dark winter months, antidepressant medications or light therapy (phototherapy) may help.


Spending time outside with natural light, even when it’s cloudy, help with seasonal depression. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and keeping to normal routines is important, as well.

As with any mental or physical issue, if symptoms persist, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss more options for treatment.


Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any illness or disease. Please see a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. 


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