Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Do the dark days of late fall and winter make you feel sad? Well, these might just be seasonal affective disorder symptoms. 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that happens at the same time every year, usually in the winter. SAD, which is also called seasonal affective disorder, can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels. It can also hurt your relationships, work, school, and sense of self-worth. You might feel like a totally different person than you do in the summer. You might feel hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, and you might not care about your friends or the things you usually enjoy.

Even though some people get depressed in the summer, SAD usually starts in the fall or winter when the days get shorter and lasts until the days get longer again in the spring or early summer. SAD affects about 1% to 2% of the population, especially women and young people. A milder form of the winter blues may affect as many as 10% to 20% of the population.

SAD is most common in people who live at least 30 degrees north or south of the equator. This is because the amount of daylight you get in the winter changes the farther you are from the equator. No matter where you live or how dark and cold your winters are, the good news is that Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment is available.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms

SAD Symptoms

The seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression. This Disorder is officially recognised as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns, as stated by the American Psychiatric Association. Consequently, if you suffer from SAD, you will experience shifts in your mood as well as symptoms of depression. Mainly Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms include the following:

  • Having a sad and depressed mood for the majority of the day and almost every day.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increased appetite for carbohydrates, as well as weight gain.
  • Extreme tiredness and an inability to muster any energy.
  • Having a sense that there is no future or that one’s efforts are in vain.
  • Having trouble concentrating on what’s being said.
  • Having a feeling of irritation or agitation throughout your body.
  • Limbs (arms and legs) that have a heaviness to them.
  • Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, including a withdrawal from social activities and situations.
  • Sleeping problems (usually oversleeping).
  • Having thoughts of ending one’s own life.

Symptoms For Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • Feelings of apprehension.
  • Depression.
  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss.
  • Incidents of aggressive and violent behaviour.
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia).

Symptoms For Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • A lack of energy or extreme fatigue
  • Alterations in appetite like desiring foods rich in carbohydrates
  • Gain in weight
  • Oversleeping

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Causes

What causes seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Well, most theories say that it is caused by the shorter days of winter. People believe that the shorter days and less sun exposure that come with winter affect the body by:

Circadian rhythms. Your sleep-wake cycle or internal clock responds to changes in light and dark to control your sleep, mood, and appetite. Winter’s longer nights and shorter days can throw off your body’s internal clock, making you feel groggy, confused, and tired at bad times.

Melatonin is made by the body. When it’s dark, your brain makes the hormone melatonin, which helps you sleep. During the day, sunlight tells your brain to stop making melatonin, which wakes you up and makes you feel alert. During the winter, when the days are short and the nights are long, your body may make too much melatonin, making you feel sleepy and tired.

Getting serotonin made. Less sunlight in the winter can make your body make less serotonin, a chemical that helps control your mood. A lack of something can make you feel sad and hurt your sleep, appetite, memory, and sexual desire.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Treatment – Fighting SAD

How important is the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) treatment? Well, depression, in any form, hinders a person’s ability to live their lives to the fullest, to take pleasure in their families, and to perform effectively in the workplace. So it’s extremely important to understand the treatments. 

Here are a few potential courses of action or treatments that you could take to aid in the fighting SAD:

Consult Your Physician

As a form of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) needs to be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional. It is possible to determine whether or not someone is depressed by asking them a series of screening questions. Whether you have SAD or another type of depression can be determined by your physician. 

Prepare Yourself Mentally By Fall

As you prepare your home for fall-to-winter, consider preparing your mind too. Taking time for mood-boosting activities might improve your physical and mental health. It’s preferable to prepare for winter in the fall by undertaking delightful activities, initiating friend group conversations and outings, picking entertaining hobbies, and engaging in clubs or community service. Working on such things before the onset of winter is considerably easier than starting later from scratch.

Try The Light Therapy

Light therapy can help some with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This involves sitting by a light lamp for 30 to 60 minutes each morning. Light therapy lamps are bright lamps that are often used to treat SAD, depression, and sleep problems. The lamps are easy to find and can be used at home.The light – 

  • Reduces melatonin production and increases serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood). 
  • Aligns your brain’s 24-hour cycle with your body’s clock (aka circadian rhythm).
  • Helps keep sleep patterns stable and regular and raises awareness.

Pros & Cons Of Light Therapy

The biggest advantage of light therapy is that it is easy to start and regulate. It is :

Accessible. Light boxes can be rented or bought for at-home treatment.

Noninvasive. It’s a non-ingestible alternative or addition to drugs.

Safe. Light treatment is typically safe and low-risk, although it might have negative effects if administered inappropriately.

Convenient. While reading or eating breakfast, utilise a light treatment lamp at home. Stopping light therapy for a few days won’t cause side effects or relapse.

With Minor side effects. Most light treatment adverse effects, such headaches, dizziness, or nausea, are prevented.

One of the things that could go wrong with light therapy is that it carries with it the possibility of unwelcome side effects and complications. Headache, insomnia, fatigue, eyestrain, euphoria, and irritability are some of the cons or side effects that may be experienced.

Light Therapy In Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment

Light therapy is safe for most people. Most people won’t get skin or eye damage from the recommended light boxes because they have filters that block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

But you might not want to be in very bright light if:

  • You have an eye disease or injury that makes your eyes more sensitive to light. 
  • You are taking medicine that makes your eyes more sensitive to light, like certain antibiotics and antipsychotics.

Try Antidepressants

If light therapy or psychotherapy don’t completely relieve your symptoms, prescription antidepressants may help you get over seasonal depression, as long as you don’t take any that might make you sleepy.

Most of the time, you’ll need to take antidepressants for SAD from the fall until the spring. It’s important to recognise the first signs of SAD so you can get help from your doctor before they get worse.

Focus On Social Activities

Why do people with SAD need to indulge in more social activities?

Well, being alone for long periods of time can have long-term effects on people’s minds, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important to find creative ways to stay in touch with people. You could hang out with family and friends at a local park, play sports or yard games outside, or go for walks when the weather is nice. When it’s too cold to go outside or too dangerous to drive in the winter, you can FaceTime with friends and family or set up Zoom calls with them. 

Importance Of Schedule In SAD Treatment

People with SAD have a hard time falling asleep at night and getting up in the morning. Keeping a regular schedule can help you sleep better, which can help ease the effects of seasonal depression. By sticking to a regular schedule, you will also be exposed to light at regular, predictable times. And eating at regular times can keep you from eating too much.

Exercise – An Ideal SAD Treatment

Exercising regularly can help ease symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), just as it does with other types of sadness. In addition, regular exercise can assist in offsetting the weight gain that is typically associated with SAD.

Exercising outside is the most effective method for reducing the SAD symptoms.You could try exercising indoors on a treadmill, stationary cycle, or elliptical machine that is positioned close to a window, either if it’s too cold outside.

A Vacation Or Staycation

By getting away from the cold and grey skies of winter, a trip to a warmer place can help people with SAD feel better. Winter depression can be rid by even a short break from your daily routine in a sunny place. The excitement that can make you feel better can start before your trip and last for a few weeks after you get back. You could also plan a “staycation,” where you take time off from work and do typical vacation activities in your own home and neighbourhood.

Consume Enough Vitamin D

A lack of vitamin D could be a cause of depressive symptoms. People with SAD often have low levels of vitamin D, which can be caused by not getting enough of this vitamin from food or not getting enough sun. Experts aren’t sure if vitamin D supplements can help ease the symptoms of SAD. But making sure you get enough sun during the day and eating foods that are high in vitamin D may help.

Talk to your doctor about getting a test to see how much vitamin D you have in your body and if you should take supplements.

Go Therapeutic With Aromatherapy

Essential oils might be able to help lessen the effects of depression and other mental problems, like anxiety and trouble sleeping. When it comes to SAD, essential oils could possibly affect the part of the brain that controls moods and the body’s internal clock, which controls sleep and appetite. Even though there isn’t a lot of evidence for aromatherapy, using essential oils could be a simple and safe way to improve your mental health. This is especially true if you combine it with something relaxing, like taking a bath or sitting with friends by candlelight.


Seasonal affective disorder or (SAD) is a form of depression that only happens during a certain time of year, usually winter. Some of the SAD Symptoms are not having enough energy and feeling like there is no hope. However, seasonal depression can be treated, which is good news.

The outlook is good for people who have seasonal affective disorder. There are treatments for SAD available. People can get better if they get the right diagnosis and the right combination of treatments. Talk to your doctor to figure out which category of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) treatment will help you the most.

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