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What Is SAD and How to Manage It?

December 4, 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.

Do the impending fall or winter months bring you sadness and you don’t know why? You may have seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression or SAD, is a form of depression that can occur in individuals during certain times of the year. SAD typically affects individuals in the winter of fall months due to less daylight exposure during these times of the year.

However, there are some individuals who may suffer from summer-pattern depression. In this case it’s believed the symptoms may be a result of a decrease in melatonin production from extended daylight and increased temperatures that can impact sleep.

Those who suffer from SAD typically experience symptoms repeatedly during specific times of the year and these symptoms can last 4-5 months at a time, or until the seasons change. Some common symptoms of SAD include persistent anxiety or feeling down, irritable, frustrated, hopeless, loss of interest in usual hobbies, decreased energy, over sleeping, overeating and many more [1].

Most symptoms of SAD are typical of depression, and someone may experience one or multiple symptoms at a time. While SAD is believed to affect millions of individuals each year, many may not even know that they suffer from it.

If you think you may be experiencing SAD, reach out to your healthcare provider to receive a proper diagnosis and learn about treatment options. Your provider can help you determine what the best options would be to help you treat and manage your symptoms.

There are treatments available for SAD that include antidepressant medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, and in some cases, vitamin D therapy. Light therapy and vitamin D are typically used to treat those who suffer specifically from winter-pattern SAD.

While SAD is not known to be preventable, those who know they suffer from it may be able to start treatment before symptoms arise. Certain lifestyle factors may also be able to help reduce symptoms, such as eating a balanced diet, getting consistent exercise, getting outside often, and prioritizing adequate sleep [2].

Exercise has been specifically linked with reducing SAD symptoms for those who suffer from winter-pattern SAD. If you aren’t already practicing these lifestyle habits, now is a great time to start. While these lifestyle changes may not be able to help you avoid SAD, they may help you better manage your symptoms and enjoy these times of the year more [3].

Please reach out to our office if you're experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder; we're here to support you in getting the assistance you need.