Tag Archives: seasonal depression

Seasonal Depression: When Winter Brings The Blues

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter or seasonal depression, is a form of depression which comes in and goes out with a particular season, usually winter. According to Mental Health America, SAD is classified as a mood disorder.  One if its main causes is seasonal variation in natural light which upsets the body’s circadian rhythm.


Some of the symptoms of SAD include: persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety or moodiness, weight gain, headaches, sexual problems, social anxiety, over-sleeping, and fatigue.  Approximately 10% of SAD sufferers feel depressed in the summer and may experience some different symptoms than winter sufferers, which can include insomnia, weight loss, and loss of appetite.  WebMD states that various symptoms of SAD correlate with other types of depression as well, but one that appears unique to winter-onset SAD is a tenacious craving for heavy carbohydrates such as pastas.

The Stats

According to Everyday Health, nearly 500,000 Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. While anyone can suffer from SAD, there is a greater prevalence among women, people between the ages of 15 and 55, and people who may have a genetic predisposition for depression. The majority of those who suffer from SAD live far away from the equator, where the days shorten during winter months and exposure to sunlight is reduced.

Light Therapy

The most common form of therapy for SAD sufferers is light therapy. This includes using specialized lightboxes which contain different wavelengths of light rays to simulate sunlight. Another common type of light therapy is a dawn simulator, a special light programmed to gradually increase in intensity during morning hours, simulating the sun setting. While artificial light therapy is great for those with limited access to sunlight, one study found that during winter months, walking for an hour in the sunlight was equivalent to two and a half hours under bright artificial lights.

Other Treatment Options

Similar to other types of depression, regular exercise is recommended for people with SAD. Outdoor exercise is targeted as especially beneficial, as working out in natural sunlight will help the person two-fold. Other useful therapies include relaxation techniques, talking with a therapist, and in some cases the use of anti-depressants is necessary during the affecting season.

How SAD is Diagnosed

If you are suffering from similar symptoms discussed in this blog and are wondering if you may have SAD, it is important to visit your doctor (or speak to one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians) today so they can perform a mental health assessment to determine if you may be suffering from SAD or another form of depression.