Is Seasonal Affective Disorder getting you down? Here’s how to keep it at bay


With the temperatures dropping and the days darkening earlier, you might find that it affects your mood – and you might not want to leave the house as much. Maybe you think it’s just a case of the winter blues. The cause can also be something a little more serious, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the Cleveland Clinic, this condition is exactly what it looks like, a “depression that is triggered by a change of seasons, usually in early fall.” And it’s worse in winter. But, luckily, when spring arrives, TAS usually ends.

About 5% of the population suffers from SAD and it may be more common in states that experience colder, darker weather. For example, some surveys have found the prevalence of SAD to be 9.7% in New Hampshire, but only 1.4% in Florida. And many studies have shown that it affects women more. Aside from statistics, if you think you have SAD, there are ways to deal with it and make it more manageable. But let’s talk about the symptoms first.

“SAD is a disease that typically affects people during the colder, darker months,” Dr Bradley Nelson of, and author of “The code of emotionsTZR says in an email. “Symptoms include sadness, mood swings and a lack of energy that start in the fall and continue through the winter.” Raina Wadhawan, Ed.M, LMHC and Registered Psychotherapist at, agrees there are some signs you can watch out for. “Common symptoms of major depressive episodes that occur seasonally include fatigue, depressed or bad mood, hypersomnia, overeating, low motivation, loss of interest in activities and weight changes,” a- she told TZR in an email.


Gail Saltz MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and host of the “How Can I Help?” Podcast Of iHeartRadio, also intervenes. An indicator of SAD can be if you have feelings of sadness, emptiness and numbness or elevated irritability for much of the day every day for several weeks, she tells TZR in an email. rarely in spring or summer. “Plus, if you sleep more than usual (and you’re feeling exhausted anyway) and eat more than usual (with a propensity to eat carbohydrates and gain weight),” she says. “loss of libido, loss of focus, inability to enjoy things, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide”.

How to differentiate SAD from one-year-old depression

Even though SAD occurs seasonally, how do you know if you have it or if you have general depression? “Timing is the key characteristic that distinguishes depression from depression with seasonal patterns,” says Wadhawan. “People with SAD must show symptoms of the criteria for depressive disorder for at least two years during a specific time of year. She notes that while depressive episodes can occur at any time of the year, SAD occurs in seasonal patterns. “In addition, seasonal depressive episodes must prevail over non-seasonal depressive episodes.”

The “winter blues”, on the other hand, is a mental state defined by feelings of sadness and fatigue during the colder and darker months of the year. “It’s important to note that the ‘winter blues’ is not SAD,” says Wadhawan. “SAD is more serious and debilitating. “

How a person is diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder

Wadhawan says if you have symptoms of SAD, see a mental health professional for a thorough evaluation. “Your clinician will explore and identify your symptoms of major depression, the duration of symptoms and the frequency of episodes before making a diagnosis,” she explains. Dr Fumi Stephanie Hancock, PsychDNP, founder of POB Psychiatry and author of 24 self-help books, deals with many cases of SAD. She also says that if you don’t feel better or your symptoms get worse, see a doctor and get professional help. “Some people need antidepressants and / or psychotherapy during the fall and winter months to help them feel better,” she told TZR in an email. “Remember, getting help is a sign of strength and is necessary for a lot of people.”

Some ways to fight SAD

Saltz says there are several self-healing methods you can implement if you have SAD, including 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, talking to others for social support, holding a journal your feelings and meditate. “But if it is clinically significant depression, it requires treatment with psychotherapy, possibly drugs and possibly light box therapy,” she adds. “The latter can be done on your own, but you need to be screened to make sure the light box therapy is safe for you and that you are getting a true therapy light box and instructions for use.”

If you are not familiar with light box therapy, it is a type of light that mimics outdoor light and can help improve your mood, especially if you don’t go outside much or live in a darker climate. Since light boxes are not approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of SAD, it is helpful to discuss obtaining one with a mental health professional.

Speaking of light, Nelson suggests trying to get as much natural light as possible. “Enlighten yourself,” he said. “Try to get out as often as possible to get more light when the weather permits. Try to walk around whenever you can every day, keep the blinds open, and set up your workstation near a window if you can. Like Saltz, Nelson says exercising regularly can also help. While sticking to a winter workout routine can be a challenge, the benefits will be worth it. “This will increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help combat seasonal sadness,” he notes. “So get moving today, whether it’s a walk around the block, a virtual yoga class, or a hike in the mountains. Any form of exercise will do.


On a related note, Nelson says that a person with SAD may also try to exercise their brain – by (re) balancing their energy with energy healing. “Unleashing the emotional baggage that can hold you back is another great way to prevent seasonal affective disorder symptoms, or at least reduce their severity,” he says. “[This can help you] let go of these emotions and create more space for joy.

Another way to improve your mood if you have seasonal affective disorder is to eat a healthy diet. Research shows that there is a correlation between what you eat and your mood. “Healthy eating is an important part of the holistic healing of SAD,” says Nelson. “Choose recipes that contain natural mood enhancers, such as dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, fish and avocados. “

Hancock agrees with Nelson and says to make sure you eat a healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense foods that help your body function optimally. Avoiding alcohol is also helpful. “It can be tempting to want to relax with a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day, but alcohol is bad and will only make your depression worse,” she says. “Stick to the water as much as possible.”

Another effective way to treat SAD is vitamin D supplements. “Many people with depression from SAD also have lower vitamin D levels,” says Hancock. “Your doctor can do a simple blood test to determine your levels. Adding a vitamin D supplement is both easy and inexpensive, and has helped many people feel better. Your doctor can better advise you on how much to take.

Adding more color to your workspace or home environment can also be helpful if you have SAD. “When you can, add bright, vibrant colors to your space,” says Hancock. “For example, you can paint an accent wall orange or bright yellow, decorate it with a bright, cheerful color palette, and wear colorful clothing as well.”

Additionally, Hancock suggests stepping out of your current climate and heading south. “Make sure you use your paid time off and consider heading south for a break,” she says. “The days are a bit longer with more sun and the weather is a lot warmer, which will help relieve some of your depression. Taking a stroll on the beach rather than getting stuck inside will definitely help improve how you feel.

And, finally, getting excited about other things in life can help relieve symptoms of SAD. “We know that SAD occurs in some people who are deficient in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin,” Hancock explains. “You can naturally increase serotonin by making sure all areas of your life are going well. Are you happy with your career? Are your personal relationships healthy and flourishing? Are you excited for the future? Getting these parts of your life in order will help you fight SAD.


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