Seasonal Affective Disorder

Understanding Seasonal Depression

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder  or seasonal depression is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Most often it happens during the late fall and winter months, but some people may experience it in the spring or early summer.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Decreased energy
  • Moody, sad or anxious feelings
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Weight gain in the winter
  • Sleeping more frequently and feeling drowsy during the day
  • Social withdrawal
  • Feelings of hopelessness

What Causes Seasonal Depression?

There are varying views of the causes of SAD but most professionals believe that there is a connection to the decrease in sunlight exposure, causing:

  • Reduced levels of the “feel good” brain chemical of serotonin
  • Disruption in the balance of melatonin, which is the sleep regulating hormone

How is SAD treated?

It’s important that you be thoroughly assessed and diagnosed by your doctor. You may need further tests to rule out any other underlying problem. It could possibly be low thyroid function. Your doctor should consider these questions:

  • Are my symptoms most likely caused by seasonal affective disorder, or could they be due to something else?
  • What else could be causing or worsening my symptoms of depression?


Treatment for Seasonal Depression Can Include:

  • Light therapy
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy

Natural remedies that might elevate your mood:

  • Engaging in pleasurable activities everyday in the winter
  • Get outside and soak up vitamin D or using a vitamin D supplement
  • Exercise
  • Staying connected with social supports
  • Traveling to a warmer, sunnier location or if symptoms are in the summer, go somewhere cooler
  • Practicing stress management such as yoga, meditation or guided imagery
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture