Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and treatable

As the days grow shorter in the fall and winter, many people experience the “winter blues.” If you find your mood and behavior changing significantly with the seasons, you may be experiencing a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also called Seasonal Depression. For most people, SAD symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter. In rare cases, SAD symptoms may begin in the spring and continue into the summer.

While untreated depression can greatly impact a person’s quality of life, there is still stigma about depression that may keep people from getting help. Sometimes people feel that their symptoms are a sign of weakness or laziness, but SAD is a health condition caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and with treatment, most people who suffer from SAD and other forms of depression will see improvement within a few weeks.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is associated with a variety of symptoms:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy, even when a person has had a full night’s sleep


Scientists do not fully understand what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, but there is evidence that a few factors may contribute to the condition:

  • Reduced sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt our body’s biological clock and may cause a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical) levels — which can trigger feelings of depression.
  • When the seasons change our body’s melatonin (a hormone) levels can be disrupted, which can affect sleep patterns and mood.
  • Factors that may increase your risk of experiencing SAD include having a family history of seasonal depression, living with preexisting mental health conditions, and living farther from the equator (like we do here in the Northwest!), which further shortens the days and limits access to sunlight.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent SAD

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. The effects of SAD can be minimized by:

  • Going outside often, even in short bursts during breaks
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Exercising
  • Seeing friends and family 
  • Avoiding self-isolation 
  • Limiting the use of drugs and alcohol

If you feel down for days or weeks at a time or feel unmotivated to engage in activities you usually enjoy, consider talking with your doctor. And if your sleep patterns and appetite change, you experience feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, or you engage in excessive drug and alcohol use, it is especially important to speak with a medical professional. 

How To Get Help

If you think you may have SAD, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Your doctor can give you a thorough evaluation to identify the causes of your symptoms. Remember that depression is a medical condition. Your doctor will believe you and can connect you with resources to manage your symptoms.

There are many treatments for SAD and your doctor will make specific recommendations for you based on your needs.

Visit to find a provider or learn more about Sound Support programs.