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10 Facts About SAD

December 18, 2023

Our Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Month newsletter series is focused on raising awareness about seasonal depression. The series will consist of four articles, which will be released once a week throughout the month of December. Each article will cover different aspects of SAD, offering helpful tips and information to encourage readers to maintain positive mental health during SAD season.

If you or someone you know suffers from seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression, it can feel lonely. Even though it is estimated that millions of Americans suffer from SAD each year, it’s not talked about as much as you would think. Whether you are newly diagnosed or have suffered from SAD for many years, below are some facts you may not have known [1].

  1. SAD is a type of depression. While this may be implied in the term “seasonal depression” SAD cannot be present without underlying depression. This means someone without depression cannot develop SAD.

  2. While it’s labeled seasonal affective disorder, most people consider SAD to be associated with wintertime, aka the “winter blues.” However, people can experience SAD during the summer months, also known as summer-pattern SAD.

  3. The symptoms you experience with SAD vary based on the type you have. For example, those with winter-pattern depression may experience oversleeping, over-eating, and withdrawing from social activities while those with summer-pattern depression may experience difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, and anxiety.

  4. Those with winter-pattern SAD are more likely to gain weight due to a decrease in serotonin production which makes you crave sweets.

  5. If you have a family history of SAD or a history of depression or bipolar disorder you are more at risk of developing this condition than others.

  6. It’s believed the symptoms of SAD are caused by alterations in melatonin levels. For example, those with winter-pattern SAD produce too much melatonin which is why one of the classic symptoms of this pattern includes oversleeping. Meanwhile, those with summer-pattern SAD develop too little melatonin.

  7. SAD is likely caused by changes in daylight as this is an essential part of your circadian rhythm which influences your melatonin production.

  8. Light therapy is a common treatment used for SAD, particularly with winter-pattern, which includes exposure to light that mimics natural daylight for 30-60 minutes each day.

  9. If you struggle with SAD, you can plan ahead. Since symptoms occur annually around the same time as the season changes, you can seek treatment or change your environment ahead of time to cope with or reduce symptoms.

  10. Regular exercise is an easy way to boost mood and reduce SAD symptoms.