What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression. This is a period where someone may feel down or unlike themselves. But this is not just limited to certain seasons — this feeling can happen to many people throughout the year and can be caused by many different factors.

Seasonal affective disorder also known as “seasonal depression” is caused by the change of the seasons, most commonly the seasons of fall and winter. Many people will notice changes in their mood and overall mental health starting in the late fall and beginning of winter. These feelings can last until the beginning or middle of spring. Some people may actually be affected by SAD during the spring/summer rather than the fall/winter.

It is thought that SAD is caused by a lowered production of serotonin and an increased production of melatonin in the body specifically during the winter months 1. Seasonal affective disorder can also be worsened by lack of crucial vitamins and nutrients in the body, such as vitamin D.

Who might get SAD?

Like most mental health concerns seasonal affective disorder can happen to nearly anyone. Some mental health concerns may make some people more susceptible to SAD. People that suffer from depression, bipolar disorders, attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders or panic disorders may be more susceptible to getting seasonal affective disorder.

The Symptoms

Like many health concerns the symptoms can vary from person to person, however there are some common symptoms that people affected with SAD may experience.

Some common symptoms may include:

  • Loss in interest in your favorite activities
  • Over-Eating
  • Over-Sleeping
  • Low Energy / Sluggish
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless

The Diagnosis

You can be diagnosed with SAD by a medical professional. You can make an appointment with a medical professional or a licensed mental health professional to speak about your concerns. They can help you determine if your symptoms and criteria are aligned with seasonal affective disorder or other health concerns.

Treatments for SA:

Seasonal affective disorder is treated with a few common treatments. Some of these treatments can be done at home.

Treatments include:

  • Seek professional help: Speaking with a therapist can be extremely beneficial while trying to navigate these feelings you may not be used to. Therapists can help you get back to feeling like yourself and offer tips to maintain your overall mental health.
  • Light therapy: Light therapy uses a special light that is very bright and was made to mimic the effects of natural sunlight without the UV danger. Light therapy can be used 30-45 minutes a day to simulate natural light for the body.
  • Medication: When seeking professional help, you practitioner may think it is the best option for you to go on medication to treat your SAD. This can be very beneficial and may be short term. Speak with your provider to create a plan that is best for you.
  • Vitamin D: Getting the proper amount of vitamin D is very important, especially considering that vitamin D is one of the common vitamin deficiencies that can trigger SAD. Check with your medical provider to see the dosage you may need.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help with SAD, to get your mind off things and can give you something to look forward to. Do an exercise that you are comfortable with and you enjoy.

Contact Michiana Behavioral Health

Located in Plymouth, Indiana, Michiana Behavioral Health offers a therapeutic environment for patients and their families to improve their lives and focus on recovery.

In addition to mental health, inpatient and  outpatient substance abuse treatment for adults, we also provide programs mental health programs for children & teens. We provide board certified and child-trained psychiatrists and experienced, masters-level clinicians for all treatment programs.

We’re only 35 minutes from South Bend, and within a couple of hours of most major metro cities in the tristate area.

For questions about our program, call 800-795-6252 or use our online contact form.


NIMH» Seasonal Affective Disorder. (n.d.). Www.nimh.nih.gov.