Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Almost 20% of Americans experience some form of depression at any given time. Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is depression that is triggered by the change of season and affects about 5% of adults. Fall and winter are the most common reasons to trigger SAD. While the effects are milder for some people, they can feel paralyzing for others.

What Causes Seasonal Depression?

While scientists have not yet pinpointed an exact cause of this condition, the reduction in the amount of daylight during winter months is widely credited.

Some of the most common factors that are believed to contribute to the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • Disruptions in circadian rhythm
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Increase in melatonin production

Interestingly enough, all of the items listed can be connected to a reduction in sunlight exposure.

Summer Depression is a less common form of SAD that is characterized by depression brought on during the summer months. The rare condition is an anomaly that causes a clear contradiction to the theories of what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Before receiving professional treatment, a diagnosis by a trained mental health professional will be necessary. This professional will be looking for known signs and symptoms of the condition, how many the patient exhibits, and how often.

Signs & Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Sugar and carbohydrate cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Heavy limbs
  • Loss of interest
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm

Treatment for Seasonal Depression

The good news is that Seasonal Depression is treatable! In fact, there are several different ways to help you cope with and to treat this condition. Treatment options can include talk therapy, medication, and alternative therapy. As with most conditions, a combination of therapies often provides the best results.

Let’s talk about each treatment option.

Talk Therapy

Working with a psychologist or mental health counselor one on one has proven to be beneficial for all forms of depression. In therapy, your provider will likely utilize a form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.


For more moderate to severe cases of SAD, you may need to work with a psychiatrist or another physician to try a medication along with talk therapy. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is a common medication used to treat seasonal depression. In some cases, other antidepressants and SSRIs maybe be prescribed.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is an alternative therapy that has been proven to be highly effective in threatening SAD. Other alternative therapies for Seasonal Depression include supplements such as St. John’s wort, melatonin, and vitamin D.

Lifestyle Changes

Routine and lifestyle choices can be highly beneficial in managing SAD. This includes maintaining a routine where you:

  • Shower daily
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get 30 minutes of sunlight each day (even just sitting near the window)
  • Eat a balanced diet

Related Conditions

Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or is it something else? The following conditions are often confused with or co-occurring with Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Postpartum Depression

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