Seasonal Affective Disorder

Fall is right around the corner and you may have noticed that the days are already starting to get darker earlier. For many, the decreased sunlight and overcast days of fall and winter can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons. According to a Psychology Today study, seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD. The following factors may play a role in contributing to SAD including serotonin levels, melatonin levels, and vitamin D levels. There may not be ways to avoid SAD but you can get out in front of it and manage it either before symptoms start or so that it doesn’t get any worse. Here are a few signs to look for and strategies that may help to relieve the symptoms associated with SAD

Common Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the Mayo Clinic here are a few of the common symptoms of SAD. People who experience SAD may have different symptoms. Here is a list of the more common symptoms:

  • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue or low energy level

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Diminished concentration

  • Difficulty thinking clearly

  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

Strategies That may Help to Relieve Feelings and Symptoms Associated with SAD

Treatments may include one or a combo of light therapy, antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Here is an explanation of the types of treatments.

Light Therapy

This method of treatment has been around since the early 80’s. Light Therapy involves sitting in front of a special lightbox. The lightbox emits a bright light that mimics the sun. The light is effective in helping to change the chemicals in the brain to help boost mood. Also, try to get out as much as you can and take in the natural light of the sun. The more light you get the better you may feel.


There are a few behavioral type therapies such as talk therapy that may help decrease SAD. Talk therapy can help in identifying negative thoughts and focus on something more positive. Talking with someone else helps you manage your symptoms and learn new ways to manage symptoms that may be healthier for you in the long run. It is always important to try to manage your stress level as much as possible during the fall and winter months. 


Your doctor may prescribe medication that can help relieve the symptoms you are experiencing. If medication is prescribed you may have to take it for several weeks until you feel it makes a difference or you may even have to try several types before you find something that works. As with anything, you’ll want to seek help from a medical doctor and not self-diagnose.

Lifestyle Changes

Try to get outside and walk or exercise and take in as much sunshine as you can during the darker months. Staying physically active is important as it helps with your overall mood and will help boost endorphins. The key is to get as much light as possible whether you are inside or outside.

As you can see there are several things a person can do to help improve the symptoms of SAD. If you or someone you love suffers from SAD please feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our providers. Understanding SAD could help improve your quality of life this coming fall and winter. Please contact us today if we can help you or if you’d like to talk with someone about SAD. 

Colin Eggleston