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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Updated on November 22, 2009

When we moved from Colorado to Ohio I started becoming slightly depressed in the winter. It took me awhile to figure out why. Colorado is one of the sunniest states, especially in the winter and Ohio is one of the gloomiest. Each fall as the days grow shorter I start to feel very down in general and just absolutely dread the coming winter. I have come to realize that what I most likely suffer from is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD for short).

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 10% of the population. Typically the farther from the equator people live, the higher percentage of the population is affected. SAD is a mood disorder that causes temporary depression symptoms in a person who has no depression symptoms for most of the year. SAD also typically affects women. Reading about the symptoms, I definitely think that SAD affects me each winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can also cause weight gain and oversleeping. Other symptoms include depression, hopelessness, loss of interest in friends, family and/or hobbies, loss of energy and increased anxiety. That sounds like a lot to deal with each winter, but there are things you can do to help, or even prevent SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause disruptions in our melatonin and serotonin levels. The shortened days affect our melatonin levels which can disrupt our sleep and wake patterns as well as our moods. Lower levels of sunlight can affect the levels of serotonin which can lead to depression. Light therapy can help regulate these levels, reducing the effects of SAD on your body. There are also medications that can help SAD sufferers, but I prefer a more natural approach.

One of the best things that has helped me each winter is to go outside every single day. Even when I can't see the sun, forcing myself to go outside for a walk for 20-30 minutes each day really helps my mood. I have also found that taking a Vitamin D supplement helps the depression. Studies are still out on whether a Vitamin D deficiency can cause SAD, but they are pointing in that direction as a possible cause. Getting more sunshine (which helps the body naturally produce Vitamin D) and taking a Vitamin D supplement have helped me tremendously.

Exercise is another natural alternative for treating SAD - my daily walk helps me meet both these natural remedies. I know that when you suffer from depression it is common to want to close the curtains and blinds and not leave the house. This is the opposite of what you should do though. Let as much light in as you can and make your home as bright as possible. You should also try to sit close to windows or doors where the sun is streaming in.

My favorite remedy for SAD is one that many NE Ohioans do each year. They take a week off and head down south - typically to Florida. This week long dose of sunshine and warm weather tend to keep most people in a pretty good mood. Now if only I could get my husband to go along with that idea maybe I wouldn't suffer from SAD at all. SAD is a pretty common form of depression that affects more people than you realize. But there are things you can do that will help you deal with the long dark winters and hopefully get you to a healthy springtime.


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    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 6 years ago from Escondido, CA

      I can empathize. I live in sunny southern California and I experience the symptoms of SAD. Those symptoms exasperate the bipolar diagnosis I have during the winter months. Great article and thank you for sharing. Well written.

    • profile image

      DRAGON JULES 7 years ago

      I LOVE winter, but this year has been so full of rain and clouds that I feel cloudy and rainy inside! I do walk everyday that it isn't raining, but I need more sun!! Maybe I will have to take some time off and head South!!

    • Nemingha profile image

      Nemingha 8 years ago

      I have suffered from this all my life without ever knowing why until about 10 years ago when I read about it in a magazine. It made me laugh to see the acronym because for years, whenever people would ask me what was wrong, I'd say I just felt sad.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Very good advice and explained well the SAD condition. Thank you.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 8 years ago from Michigan

      Look for Sun lamps designed to help with SADS - they really really help. I live in Michigan and my girlfriend used to go to Fla. every winter because of SADS. She got one of these lights and makes it through now. I know the company she got it from - they run $250.00. Am I allowed to give a website here where you can get one?

    • cr8ve1 profile image

      cr8ve1 8 years ago

      BIG! HUGE! THUMBS UP! Screaming with excitement and happiness for this article!! Thank you so much for posting this article-you helped my family understand what I'm going through!! You are now my new Hero! Or Heroinne!!

    • cr8ve1 profile image

      cr8ve1 8 years ago

      Hi Jennifer,

      I understand this disorder so well, it makes me want to cry! Thank you for putting a NAME to it!! I know you didn't do it personally, but I never knew why I felt this way other than missing the beach. I thought I was just being ornery! lol

      I was born on an island (Philippines), raised on an island (Hawaii) and am now living in the Northwest...nowhere close to any beach! Whew! At least now I know what is wrong with me!

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Good article about Seasonal Affective Disorder, Jennifer.

      Here's some more information in an article I wrote about it:

    • Georgiakevin profile image

      Georgiakevin 8 years ago from Central Georgia

      It effected my friend who moved from Santa Barbara to Seattle for the same reason and have heard it effecting people moving from Hawaii to Alaska. When i moved from New York to Santa Barbara I felt it to a lesser degree because I enjoyed cloudy weather and wasn't used to mostly sunny weather.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 years ago

      Interesting hub. Thanks, so far I don't think I have it, but thanks to you I know what to look for.