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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated on June 18, 2013

As summer fades into fall, and fall fades into winter, you slowly start to lose your energy and notice you are putting on your dreaded "winter weight." It happens every year, and this year is no different. Or maybe it's different for you, maybe it's the summer when you start to have sleepless nights and wonder why everyone seems to be enjoying the season but you. While it is more common in the winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect you at either season. If this is you, it could be more than the "winter blues" or a little bit of insomnia in the summer. Especially if it is a reaccurring thing you have grown accustomed to dealing with year after year. I am not a doctor, but advise that you may want to consider seeing one.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that is associated with one particular time of the year. While this typically occurs in the season of Winter, it can happen any time through out the year. Some people may try to brush off these feelings of sadness as the “winter blues”, but it can be much more than that. Individuals suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder may be sensitive the the lack of sunlight they experience in the winter months, or the excessive amount of sunlight they experience in the summer months.

Symptoms of SAD occurring during the summer months

  • anxiety
  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • increased sex drive
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia

Symptoms of SAD occuring during the Winter months

  • hopelessness
  • weight gain
  • increased appetite
  • anxiety
  • frequesnt feeling of a loss of energy
  • loss of concentration
  • oversleeping


While the exact cause of SAD is not known, there are different theories on what causes this disorder. Some believe that this sudden change in mood may be due to the change in the amount of sunlight that occurs when the seasons change. This change in sunlight may have a negative impact on a persons circadian rhythm, our biological clock that tells us when to sleep and when to be awake. Also, a reduced amount of sunlight can cause levels of serotonin in the body to decrease, resulting in a person feeling depressed. The change in sunlight may also result in the brain's levels of melatonin to become unbalanced, resulting in Seasonal Affective Disorder. While there is not enough research currently available to determine which of these theories is correct, they are all likely to contribute to SAD.


Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that involves multiple techniques in order to assist a patient in alleviating their symptoms. This form of treatment revolves around talking and working through issues instead of medications. Medications are another option that can be used to manage symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy has proven to be effective in treating this form of depression. This treatment focuses on resetting the circadian rhythm with the use of bright light treatment (you sit in front of a light box for a predetermined amount of time) and the use of dawn simulation, in which a timed light goes off before you wake up, and then gradually gets brighter as time goes on, much like the sun does at sunrise.


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    • Angel198625 profile image

      Amber Lynn 5 years ago

      Thanks Golden, and I'm glad you found something that works!

    • profile image

      GoldenGur97 5 years ago

      This is a very nice article! I have SAD and I use a Bluemax light therapy desk lamp, it has made a HUGE difference in my life! I feel like it gives me the extra boost that I need to get through my day. Mayo Clinic's website has some good info on SAD and Light therapy too.

    • Angel198625 profile image

      Amber Lynn 5 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear that your friend has SAD, and I'm glad this helped you out. Thanks!

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      I don't get SAD, but I have a friend that gets it quite badly. She doesn't really talk about it much so it's good to be aware of the symptoms she might be going through. She uses a light box but it doesn't seem to help, I might mention your suggestion of counselling to her the next time she's badly affected. Useful Hub, thanks for the info :)