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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs in the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is a Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs in the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter. Symptoms may include low mood, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and a decreased interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Who does Seasonal Affective Disorder affect?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect around 5% of the population in the United States. It is more common in women than in men, and tends to occur in young adults, with the average age of onset being 23 years old. SAD is also more common in people who live in areas with limited sunlight during the winter months.

What are the symptoms of a Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can vary from person to person but may include:

  • Low mood or sadness

  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Irritability or anxiety

  • Oversleeping or difficulty staying asleep

  • Feeling lethargic or having low motivation

  • Social withdrawal

  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings

These symptoms usually occur in the fall or winter months and improve in the spring or summer. Some people may also experience a milder form of SAD, known as sub-syndromal SAD or "winter blues."

How is a Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosed?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), the diagnosis criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) includes:

  • Recurrent major depressive episodes during specific seasons (typically fall and winter)

  • Full remissions (or a change to a non-seasonal major depressive episode) at other times of the year

  • This pattern must have occurred for at least 2 years with no non-seasonal major depressive episodes during that same period

  • The seasonal episodes are not better explained by other factors, such as seasonal stressors, substance use, or medication.

In addition to these criteria, a healthcare professional will typically conduct a comprehensive evaluation, including a physical exam, mental health assessment, and lab tests to rule out other possible medical conditions that could be contributing to the symptoms.

How can someone overcome a Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There are several strategies and treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), including:

  • Light therapy: Light therapy involves sitting in front of a lightbox that emits bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. This can help regulate the body's circadian rhythm and improve mood.

  • Medications: Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be helpful in treating SAD, especially in severe cases.

  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals identify negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to their depression and learn new coping skills.

  • Lifestyle changes: Engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can all help improve mood.

  • Vitamin D supplementation: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, and some studies suggest that supplementation with vitamin D may help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

It is important to note that the best treatment for SAD may vary depending on individual circumstances, and individuals should consult with their healthcare professional to determine the best approach for their situation.

This content is provided for informational and entertainment value only. It is not a replacement for a trained professional's diagnosis or for the treatment of any illness. If you feel like you are struggling with this condition, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. With the right treatment and support, individuals with this condition can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. BetterPsych provides full psychological services via telehealth and offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on our services. For more information and to find a therapist specializing in this disorder, please call (833) 496-5011, or visit

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