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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder Amid the changing seasons, millions of Americans grapple with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and recognizing the subtle symptoms is essential.

As the sun sets earlier, a wave of sadness and increased hunger may ensue. If you have experienced the “winter blues,” you are not alone. An estimated 10 million Americans are navigating this condition, too. Notably, women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD. Fortunately, the available treatments offer hope and relief for those battling this seasonal struggle.

What You Need to Know About SAD
SAD is a type of major depression that occurs at the onset of a season and usually lasts for months at a time. Symptoms are often severe enough to impact a person’s quality of life. Symptoms can include:

  • Irritability, sadness, and hopelessness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Social withdrawal
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Weight gain

While the causes of SAD vary greatly, it’s more common in those with a family history of depression, other mental health conditions, or low levels of Vitamin D. Maintaining regular appointments with your primary care provider and openly discussing any medical history can be important for preventing and treating SAD.

Treating SAD

Increase Vitamin D
Get outside for some sunshine—with SPF, of course. The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey confirmed that people with vitamin D deficiency are at significantly higher risk of depression than individuals with normal levels.

A study from the Netherlands found that those living with depression showed 14% lower circulating concentrations of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D, a form of vitamin D) than those not diagnosed with depression. You can also add Vitamin D through nutrient-rich foods like milk, salmon, almonds, spinach, oranges, and eggs.

Try Light Therapy
Do you believe that sitting close to a specific light source won’t make a difference for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Think again. Research indicates that spending at least 30 minutes near this particular light each morning provides a non-medication alternative and reduces symptoms linked to depression.

Connect and Talk It Out
Create a support system by talking to a therapist in person or remotely to help decrease feelings of isolation or loneliness. Staying connected with friends is crucial for managing depression—with a support network, people feel less alone.

For some, SAD symptoms can improve with medication. Your doctor can help determine if this is the right step for you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.