• Julie Kosteas Baker

'Tis the reason for the Season-al Affective Disorder

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? For more than 3 million Americans, late fall/early winter can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder, cleverly abbreviated and referred to as SAD. SAD is a type of depression that is characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern; meaning, it occurs during a certain time of year, for two or more consecutive years. It can actually occur in the winter and in the summer (but is far more common in the winter). And is more common in women than in men. (NIH: National Institute of Mental Health)

Even though its name would suggest otherwise, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, not a separate disorder. (Hmm.. so maybe that's why it was abbreviated to "SAD"? 🤔). As a type of depression, the signs and symptoms of winter-onset SAD generally include symptoms associated with major depression AND specific winter-pattern depression. This is important to note because the vast majority of us experience symptoms of winter-pattern depression with some frequency during the winter, but NOT major depression symptoms.

Major depression symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight

  • Having problems with sleep

  • Feeling sluggish or agitated

  • Having low energy

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless

  • Having difficulty concentrating

  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Winter-pattern SAD symptoms include:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)

  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)


If you think you are experiencing SAD, talk to your healthcare provider and/or mental health specialist. You could have an imbalance in your serotonin, and may need to be prescribed an SSRI - a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Some other tried and true therapies to treat SAD include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Light Therapy

Vitamin D

I could write an entire blog on Vitamin D (spoiler alert!). For now, I'll just mention this: you can get vitamin D from food, the sun, and supplements (600 IU).

In good health,

#seasonalaffectivedisorder #SAD #depression #winterblues #lighttherapy #cognitivebehavioraltherapy #vitaminD


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