Seasonal Affective Disorder, Not Just the "Winter Blues"

seasonal affective disorder

If you've ever noticed that your mood seems to dampen during the fall and winter months, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. In fact, many people live with a mild form of SAD and don't even know it.

A form of clinical depression, SAD symptoms include: fatigue, lack of interest in normal activities, social withdrawal, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain.

Unlike other mood disorders, SAD symptoms are associated with seasonal changes in light, often occurring only during the autumn and winter months, with the most difficult months being January and February. Outside of the winter months, SAD can be triggered by long stretches of cloudy weather or working year-round in a dark environment without natural sunlight.

Symptoms may vary in intensity. Any of these symptoms, alone or in tandem with one another, can have a serious effect on your quality of life.

Prevention & Management
With the right course of treatment, SAD can be a manageable condition. If you think you may be experiencing SAD or any other mood disorder, discuss your symptoms with Dr. Bossio to create an individualized plan for mood stabilization and enhancement. Ask Dr. Bossio about these four ways you can prevent and manage SAD.

1. Get as much sun as possible. Bundle up and take a walk, sit near a window at work, or participate in outdoor winter sports. However you choose to do it, exposing yourself to sunlight can help curb the symptoms of SAD.

2. Give phototherapy a try. Otherwise known as light therapy, phototherapy often uses a special fluorescent lamp to trick the brain into thinking the day is longer, and it has proven to be an effective treatment option for many. Just 30 to 90 minutes of daily exposure may have profound effects on your mood.

3. Increase your vitamin D intake. Although there is still insufficient evidence to conclude that vitamin D deficiency causes depression, cross-sectional studies have identified associations between depression and low vitamin D levels. Discuss intake of vitamin D supplements with Dr. Bossio.

4. Supplement with a healthy lifestyle. Additional ways to manage SAD include herbal remedies, homeopathy and other types of supplements. However, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are still the best ways to improve and maintain your psychological health year-round.


  • American Psychiatric Association. "Seasonal Affective Disorder." Accessed December 2014.
  • American Psychological Association. "Bright Lights, Big Relief."  June 26, 2006.
  • Parker, G., and H. Brotchie. "'D' for Depression: Any Role for Vitamin D?" Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 124 (October 2011): 243-249. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01705.x.

Image Attribution: sborisov/