Seasonal Affective Disorder, What is It?

     Self care is extremely important but it is very hard sometimes to put ourselves first! As the seasons change and we are getting closer to winter, have you ever heard of “Seasonal Affective Disorder?”  Believe it or not, this disorder actually comes about due to the season. Read on to find out more about this topic. It may be affecting you and you might not even know it!

 What is seasonal affective disorder?  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurring disorder caused by the change of weather and season every year. Most commonly it begins in the fall and winter seasons, lasting through spring or summer. 

       Why does it happen? How can I prevent it and treat it?


            SAD is mainly caused by weather changes and seasons. When the season changes from warm and sunny to cold and cloudy, your body needs time to adjust to it because of the abrupt change. There are three main reasons the weather causes SAD.

        Your body has its biological clock. This clock is the way your body functions throughout the day. It’s a 24-hour cycle that controls things like your coordination, blood pressure, and melatonin levels. This cycle relies on light and darkness throughout the day. In winter and fall, it’s darker and the daylight time gets shorter, this causes your “clock” to be offset. Because the cycle is delayed, your sleeping schedule gets out of its process which causes your body to be tired and you to lose energy, causing depression and tiredness. This is one of three causes of SAD.

      Another reason is your serotonin levels. Your body has a chemical called serotonin which carries messages from your nerve cells to your brain. Serotonin controls your body functions like mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, and blood clotting. When your internal clock is disrupted, it could cause a drop in your serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin could affect your mood causing depression or depressed feelings. 

The time change and darkness of the season can affect the balance of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that tells your brain when to sleep, when you’re exposed to light, it blocks your melatonin production, preventing the feeling of tiredness. This causes you to lose sleep which affects your mood and energy. A loss of sleep and energy could cause feelings of depression. 




            The symptoms of SAD share symptoms of depression. Such as:


  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

 (Source: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Mayo Clinic Staff)

            If diagnosed with SAD or you believe you’re getting symptoms of SAD, you can treat it with light therapy. Light therapy is artificial or real sunlight that you bathe in. The sunlight causes your biological clock to function again, your melatonin levels to be healthy, and your serotonin levels. The sunlight lifts symptoms of SAD and depression. Light therapy can also prevent SAD and its symptoms. It is also recommended to visit a doctor for a diagnosis. 

               Now that you know the symptoms, causes, and prevention of SAD, please take care of yourself during these cold seasons.