Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms and TreatmentsDo you feel down and sad during the winter month? Not sure why? Then take a look below at these seasonal affective disorder symptoms and treatments.


What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression. The nature and severity of SAD vary from person to person. For some people, it has a significant impact on their day-to-day life. Seasonal affective disorder is about four times more common in women than men. It can affect people of all ages.


Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • SAD occurs in fall and winter and improves in spring. It seems to be the result of inadequate exposure to bright light during the winter months. However, some people have SAD during the summer instead of, or in addition to, during the fall or winter.
  • Persistent low mood
  • Episodes of crying
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Less sociable
  • Lethargic and less active than normal
  • Sleeping for longer than normal or disturbed sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased appetite and craving for foods containing lots of carbohydrates sugars.


Treatments of SAD

Treatments for seasonal affective disorder include:

Light therapy

  • Regular exposure to light that is bright,particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with this disorder.
  • There is mixed evidence regarding its effectiveness but some studies have concluded it is effective, particularly if used first thing in the morning.
  • It involves sitting by a special lamp called a light box. When buying a light box, ensure it is medically approved and produced by a fully certified manufacturer.
  • Lightboxes produce a very bright light that simulates sunlight. The intensity of the light is measured in lux – the higher the lux, the brighter the light. It’s thought to work by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).
  • The light produced by recommended light boxes have filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so there’s no risk of skin or eye damage for most people.
  • Dawn-stimulating alarm clocks, which gradually light up your bedroom as you wake up, are also available.

Avoid light therapy if you:

  • Have an eye condition or eye damage that makes your eyes particularly sensitive to light.
  • Are taking medication that increases your sensitivity to light, such as certain antibiotics and antipsychotics, or the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort.


Cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that the way we think and behave affects the way we feel.
  • CBT involves having a number of sessions with a specially trained therapist, usually over several weeks or months.
  • The therapist can help you identify and understand ways of thinking that may be obstacles to improving their mood, and what you do about them can help you feel better.



  • Antidepressants tend to be prescribed to treat severe cases of SAD. However, evidence suggests that they have limited effect.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as s fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and vortioxetine (Trintellix) are the preferred type of antidepressant for treating SAD. Always consult your doctor when it comes to medication treatment.
  • They increase the level of the hormone serotonin in your brain, which can help lift your mood. However, they have negative side effects.
  • Antidepressants are most effective if taken at the start of winter before symptoms appear, and continued until spring.
  • It can take up to four to six weeks for the medication to take full effect


Lifestyle Changes 

There are simple things you can do to help ease your symptoms.

  • Spend more time outdoors in natural sunlight. Even a short lunch-time walk will help.
  • Take more regular physical exercise, particularly outdoors, and in sunlight.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet high in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Reduce your intake of refined sugars. Take vitamin D supplements.
  • Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible. Sit near windows when you’re indoors.
  • If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress.
  • Talk to your family and friends about SAD, so they understand how your mood changes during the winter. This can help them to support you more effectively.
  • Acupuncture may be a viable alternative intervention to antidepressant medications.
  • Chronotherapy, which uses the environmental input to affect biorhythms, is thought to be helpful. This treatment uses methods like controlled sleep deprivation to affect your brain chemicals in a positive way.

SAD is a form of depression that occurs in particular seasons. You can use the above information about Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms and treatment, to see if you have this form of depression and to take steps to help treat your depression.

Consult your doctor if you suffer from SAD to see what treatment is best for you.