Some people experience a serious mood change during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression. It usually lifts during spring and summer.
Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms. They include
- Sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Changes in weight
- Thoughts of death or suicide
SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy. But nearly half of people with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medicines and talk therapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or combined with light therapy.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (NAMI) - PDF
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder Sufferers Have More Than Just Winter Blues (American Psychological Association)
- Could Your 'Holiday Blues' Be Seasonal Affective Disorder? (11/29/2015, HealthDay)
- Light Box Might Help Nonseasonal Depression, Too (11/18/2015, HealthDay)
- Talk Therapy May Beat Light Treatment for SAD (11/06/2015, HealthDay)
Treatments and Therapies
- Beat the Winter Blues: Shedding Light on Seasonal Sadness (National Institutes of Health)
- Light Therapy (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Psychotherapies (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment: Choosing a Light Box (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Seasonal Affective Disorder (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Associations between seasonal sleep change and indoor tanning.
- Article: Chronotype and seasonality: morningness is associated with lower seasonal mood...
- Article: Prevalence, behavioral manifestations and associated individual and climatic factors of...
- Seasonal Affective Disorder -- see more articles