Seasonal Affective Disorder

December is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Awareness month, and we want to bring more awareness to this aspect of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression where significant mood and behavior changes happen with the changes in the seasons, usually late fall or early winter and improve in the spring and summer, or vice versa. The seasonal changes in mood are not a full diagnosis, it is s specifier for depressive disorders and it is important to be aware of those changes. Here are some symptoms of depression to watch out for: 

Symptoms of major depression may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  • Having problems with sleep (too much or too little)
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having low energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

In order for SAD to be diagnosed, the above depressive symptoms have to have a noted relationship with a particular the time of the year for at least 2 years and be more of a presence during that time of the year than any other times of the year. Here are some depressive symptoms that are often characteristic of SAD:

  • Loss of energy
  • Over-sleeping
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • A craving for carbohydrates

An important distinction in the diagnosis of SAD is whether there are external factors that are impacting the change in mood, such as changes in school or seasonal employment status. It has also been noted that winter-type seasonal pattern occurs more in women than in men, in younger people more than older people, and with people who live in higher altitudes; having another mental health condition also increases the likelihood of developing SAD. Treatment for SAD often includes 

  • Antidepressant medication
  • Vitamin D
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy


American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed., text rev.).

During this time of year there can be an increase in depressive symptoms which can greatly impact your ability to function, here at TriWellness we can help you develop the skills to manage this low mood. 

This month’s blog post was written by our Chronic Illness Specialist Jessie Duncan, MA, LPC, NCC.

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