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Who is Most at Risk for SAD

December 11, 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.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, affects millions of people worldwide. SAD is a form of depression that occurs during certain times of the year, often referred to as seasonal depression.

SAD is commonly known to affect those during the fall and winter months when there is decreased daylight, also known as winter-pattern depression but it can also affect those in the summer when daylight is extended. This is known as summer-pattern depression [1].

While seasonal depression tends to resolve once the season changes, this doesn’t mean you should wait it out if you are experiencing symptoms of SAD. There are many treatments available including antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, light therapy, and vitamin D therapy [1].

While it can be difficult to predict who may develop seasonal depression, some are more at risk than others. Learning about the risk factors of developing SAD can help you determine if you or a loved one is at risk and when to get help.

Those who are more likely to develop SAD are those who have a family history or those who already suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. If you currently suffer from depression, you may notice worsened symptoms seasonally and this can be an indicator that you are suffering from SAD. If you notice these changes, reach out to your doctor immediately to adjust treatment [2].

Additionally, you may be more likely to develop SAD if you live far from the equator. Those who live far north or south of the equator experience either decreased sunlight or prolonged sunlight for extended periods during certain times of the year.

It’s believed that a change in daylight patterns can affect your circadian rhythm which may result in the onset of SAD symptoms. If you live in an area with reduced daylight hours you may also experience a drop in serotonin levels which may trigger depression.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that affects our mood. If you have low vitamin D levels, you may also be at a higher risk for developing SAD due to its effects on serotonin.

We get the best source of vitamin D through sunlight and when we live in an area that experiences reduced daylight patterns for a significant time during the year, we can develop low vitamin D which is an essential nutrient for boosting serotonin levels [2].

If you have any of these risk factors and find yourself experiencing depression symptoms during certain seasons, be sure to talk with your doctor about potential treatment options. SAD can be well-managed if treatment begins before the onset of symptoms.