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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Everyone feels down or sluggish sometimes; however, some people experience a more serious mood change and become very depressed when cold weather comes around. This condition is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is a form of depression. The symptoms of SAD usually begin between September and November and end in March or April.

Common Symptoms of SAD:

  • Change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Drop in energy level
  • Fatigue
  • Tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
  • Avoidance of social situations

What causes SAD?

Most behavioral health experts agree that SAD is caused by a lack of sunlight during the winter months, when the days are shorter and daylight is scarce. Depression symptoms are usually mild or moderate, but can become severe.

How is SAD treated?

Increased exposure to sunlight can improve symptoms of SAD. Exposure can be increased by taking a long walk outside, or by making arrangements so that you are near a window during the day at home, school or work.

For most people, emotional ups and downs are normal at any time of year and are not necessarily a cause for concern. If your depressive symptoms affect your daily living, consult your health care provider about treatment options. Most people can find relief through light therapy, talk therapy or the use of medication.

If you think that you are experiencing the symptoms of SAD, it is important to seek the help of a trained medical professional. The symptoms of SAD can be confused with those of other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia or viral infections, so proper evaluation and treatment are necessary.

SAD is not just all in your imagination. With help, there are ways that you can feel better.

For more information, see Adolescent and Family Services or call 410-222-6785.