News / Mental Health

Are you affected by SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects 10 million Americans

Also known as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to the change in seasons, specifically winter.

Affecting 10 million Americans, this disorder upsets a person's circadian rhythm, and serotonin and melatonin levels, according to

Starting in the fall when daylight becomes more scarce, this disorder takes a lot of energy from people, making them feel moody or sad. It also causes a lack of interest in their usual activities, decreased concentration of abilities, and can cause changes in appetite or weight. These symptoms are tied to getting less sunlight and a vitamin D deficiency.

While it's more common during winter, this disorder affects people in the summer as well. Their symptoms may include depression, trouble sleeping, weight loss, poor appetite, and agitation or anxiety.

SAD is more common in women than men, and more common in younger people. We suggests going to your doctor if you suffer from SAD, especially if you experience trouble sleeping or weight loss or gain.

Here are treatments known to counteract the effects of SAD.

Light therapy

In what's also called phototherapy, a patient will sit a few feet from a special light therapy box with a bright light. This tricks your body into thinking it#39;s getting more sunlight. It should start working in a few days to two weeks, and is known to be a safe and effective way to deal with the disorder.


The antidepressant bupropion is popular for people suffering from SAD. A doctor may recommend you begin taking the pill before your symptoms start. These antidepressants may take a few weeks to be effective.


Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help someone identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors, learn healthy ways to cope with SAD, and help someone develop healthy ways to manage stress.

How To Know If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder Or Just Really Hate Winter

SAD is a mood disorder that typically strikes around the same time each year, starting in the fall or early winter and ending in the spring. The main driving force is sunlight, or lack thereof.

Since SAD is related to the amount of light that our bodies receive, it is understandable that the months of December, January, and February would generally be the most common to experience symptoms. For most people, changes in mood start around Labor Day, and symptoms worsen by October before getting most severe after the holidays

Anyone can suffer from SAD, but those with other mood disorders are thought to be at a greater risk.

Other things that may make you more susceptible: being a woman and living further away from the equator. Women seem more susceptible than men by a factor of about three to one.

Certain telling symptoms and behaviors can help you decipher between regular old winter blues and SAD.

When we start thinking and moving more slowly, we may start to feel sluggish and that everything takes slightly more effort. A little bit of this is normal, but when it stops you from enjoying your life and doing things you normally like to do, it may mean there's more to your blue mood.

There is a broad spectrum of SAD symptoms, ranging from mild (slightly decreased energy and productivity) to severe and incapacitating. Doctors suggest asking yourself if darker days cause you to:

  • Feel less energetic
  • Need more sleep
  • Crave sweets and starches more than before
  • Gain weight
  • Feel sad and down in the dumps
  • Become less effective at work and activities
  • Want to withdraw socially

Experts recommend combining light therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy. In some cases, an anti-depressant medication is needed, too. Exercise and stress reduction can also help complement these other treatments

At the end of the day, it's important to speak with a physician if you think you may have SAD. Light therapy is generally very effective, and can get you to a place where you no longer dread winter - and maybe actually look forward to some parts of it.


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