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Recognizing and Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

seasonal affective disorder

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Winter is here and som may be seasonal affective disorder. Do you notice yourself growing anxious or more lethargic as autumn turns into winter? Do your eating or sleeping patterns change when the days get shorter? If you see a significant change in your mood or overall well-being during the winter season, you may need to consult your doctor about the possibility of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during certain phases of your life. The people who get affected by this mood disorder generally get it at a particular time of the year. Most people affected by this disorder usually experience symptoms during the winter, although some people do go through similar issues during the summer months, which is very rare. The rare occurrence is known as “summer depression,” which tends to happen in late spring or the early summer, and it stays until the end of fall.

The disorder might be caused by a drop in serotonin, particularly as it relates to Vitamin D absorption, or it may be the result of an imbalance in melatonin levels. Whatever the catalyst, it is vital to get help if you suspect there is a problem.


Though the exact causes for SAD are not clear, according to the scientists, it happens to people because of specific hormonal changes. Some hormones trigger the brain in such a way that so the attitude of people gets changed at a particular time of the year. Experts believe that people get exposed to less sunlight during winter or end of fall, which results in the brain making less serotonin.

Serotonin is responsible for regulating human’s mood, due to less secretion of it, the human tends to have attitude related changes and problems. As the moods don’t regulate in a natural way like the other time, that can cause depression, which comes with some other symptoms of fatigue and unnecessary weight gain.

This type of mental disorder mainly occurs to women rather than men, and normally young people get affected by the same. There can be some people who find their mood irritating because of the mild symptoms of SAD. On the other hand, people with worse symptoms of it can have problems in work or their relationships.

The people of those countries who are mostly exposed to sunlight can have this type of disorder because of sudden decreasing sunlight during winter and fall.


As many contributors on can attest, recognizing that there is a problem is an important first step on the path to handling a mental health challenge in a productive way. Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect anyone, but those who are younger or female or those who have a family or personal history of depression are more likely to experience seasonal depression. There are several signs to look out for:

  • Prolonged feelings of depression
  • Very less energy
  • Having trouble while focusing on something
  • Fatigue
  • Desire to stay or left alone
  • Hopelessness
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Changes in appetite (winter symptoms: hungry; summer disorder symptoms: less appetite)
  • subsequent weight gains or loss (Generally people affected by summer disorder tends to lose weight)
  • Less interested in hobbies or social activities
  • Restlessness
  • Pronounced irritability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


The criteria for a seasonal depression diagnosis are similar to the ones used to determine ongoing depression. There are different types of treatment, depending on the severity of the depression. You must show several of the aforementioned symptoms for a prolonged period of time. If you are feeling depressed, along with any other symptoms that are mentioned above, you shouldn’t wait to consult a doctor.

The doctor will understand which type of treatment can help you. Your therapist can track the patterns of your symptoms to see if they show up at least two years in a row. It is easy to miss a day of diagnosis of SAD, particularly if you already struggle with depression or bipolar disorder. If you notice an increase in some of your symptoms during certain parts of the year, however, you shouldn’t ignore them or assume they will go away. Maintaining open communication with your doctor is a vital part of any ongoing treatment plan.


There are several ways psychiatrists may treat seasonal depression. Many prescribe antidepressants (only one medication got the FDA approval for treating the disorder, it’s called Bupropion XL) or conduct cognitive-behavioral therapy. Many doctors suggest to wake up early and go outside to have the natural sunlight fall upon you. If that is not possible, then they may recommend a daily practice of light therapy in which you are exposed to bright light for 10-15 minutes for the initial sessions to counteract the loss of natural light during winter months.

When you get used to it, the duration of exposing to bright light increases to 30-45 minutes in a day. However, keep in mind that looking directly at the light source can damage your eyes. Many persons who had suffered from SAD recovered during the time of light therapy; if the same doesn’t happen to you, your doctor can increase the session twice daily.

Tip~ (one should know before joining the light therapy session is if the lightboxes are being provided or not. Sometimes you need to purchase or rent the same, however, the health insurance companies usually never cover those lightboxes)

You may also be able to alleviate the severity of your symptoms by implementing a few new habits. Although there are fewer hours of light in the day, it may still be helpful to get outside and go for a daily walk when the sun is out. Good health practices such as regular exercise and a healthy diet may also make symptoms more manageable.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be disruptive to your life, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. By talking through your symptoms with your doctor, you may be able to find a solution that helps you balance your emotions and enjoy your life, even during the winter months.


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About Anas Alaoui

Anas Alaoui

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