WRPA top banner
Western Reserve Psychological Associates, Inc.Empowering change for over 40 years
> return to archived articles >

Archived Article

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs around the same time each year. For many people, symptoms begin in the fall and may continue into the winter months. However, some people report an opposite pattern with symptoms beginning in spring or summer. Symptoms of fall/winter SAD may include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, excessive sleep, social withdrawal, appetite changes, weight gain, concentration difficulties, and loss of interest in activities you enjoy.

The specific cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder remains unknown. Like many mental health conditions, your age, genetics, as well as your body's natural chemical make-up, may play a role in developing the condition. The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body's internal clock, which lets you know when you should sleep or be awake. This disruption of your circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression. Also a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, may play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression. In addition, the change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Some lifestyle remedies that may help reduce symptoms of SAD include making your environment brighter and sunnier, spending more time outdoors, and exercising on a regular basis.

If your seasonal depression symptoms become severe, you may want to see your family physician or a psychologist. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, medication, and/or psychotherapy. Although SAD is thought to be related to brain chemistry, your mood and behavior can also contribute to your symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthier ways to cope with SAD and manage stress with psychotherapy.

Catherine Cherpas, Ph.D.
Counseling Psychologist

> return to archived articles >