Little did RK Narayan, a renowned novelist, know about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when he wrote- Monday Morning Blues. Today, at least 5% of adult Americans suffer from winter blues. SAD is more than just winter blues. It can drastically alter a person’s mental condition, pushing them towards depression. It usually begins in the fall and may continue until winter. 

If SAD remains unchecked, it can lead to severe psychological disorders. This blog focuses on Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to prevent it. 

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of mental depression occurring during the change of seasons. It usually triggers during late autumn and grips over during the winter months. Psychological changes are very common with seasonal changes, but SAD is different. 

The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies SAD as a major depressive disorder that needs immediate medical attention. Some people may even experience SAD during summer. 

Why does SAD happen?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs when there is a lack of exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is crucial in stimulating the hypothalamus, a key component of the brain responsible for regulating the body’s internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

Circadian Rhythm: The human body works on circadian rhythm, and disrupting it can cause problems. Insufficient sunlight disrupts the normal circadian rhythm, leading to an imbalance in the production of key brain chemicals. This imbalance results in an overproduction of the sleep hormone melatonin and a decreased release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with positive mood. 

SAD affects mood and other body functions. Research indicates that it is linked to impaired cognitive function, manifesting in difficulties with concentration and working memory. This can present challenges in recalling recently learned information or articulating thoughts during conversations.

What Are The Symptoms Of SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exhibits various symptoms. The following are some of the common symptoms to look for:

  • Experiencing feelings of sadness or a persistently depressed mood.
  • Sluggish and agitated feeling.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Increased consumption and cravings for carbohydrates or an altered appetite.
  • Oversleeping or insomnia.
  • Feeling tired right after getting up in the winter mornings.
  • Changes in sleep patterns commonly involve excessive sleeping.
  • Persistent fatigue and diminished energy levels despite increased hours of sleep.
  • Engaging in purposeless physical activity, such as restlessness, pacing, or hand wringing, or conversely, displaying slowed movements or speech (the severity of these actions must be noticeable to others).
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Challenges in thinking, concentrating, or decision-making.
  • Contemplating thoughts of death or suicide.

Is Seasonal Affective Disorder curable?

Yes, SAD is curable with the right treatment. It is always advisable to consult a therapist who guides in the best possible way.

  • Light therapy: Using a special lamp, bright light therapy can help treat SAD.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a psychological therapy. Research has shown it effectively treats SAD, producing the long-lasting effects of any treatment approach.
  • Antidepressant medication: Sometimes, providers recommend medicines for depression, either alone or with light therapy.
  • Spending time outdoors: Getting more sunlight can help improve symptoms. Patients should try to get out during the day and increase the amount of the sun that enters their home or office.
  • Vitamin D: A vitamin D supplement may help improve symptoms. Patients should talk to their providers before starting this supplement.

How effective is light therapy in treating SAD?

It is quite effective in treating SAD. Light therapy entails sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits intense light while filtering out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Typically lasting for 20 minutes or more daily, this treatment is commonly administered in the morning, especially during winter. 

Most individuals undergoing light therapy often notice positive changes within one or two weeks of initiating the treatment. To sustain the benefits and avert relapse, it is customary to continue therapy throughout the winter season.

Due to the expected resurgence of symptoms in late fall, some individuals may commence light therapy in early autumn as a preventive measure against the recurrence of symptoms. Getting light before 10 am is advisable to make it effective. 

How can we prevent SAD?

ZeaHealth believes that prevention is possible for any health condition.

We may not be able to prevent the initial condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but the following conditions can be prevented. 

  • Initiate Light Therapy: In early fall, begin light therapy before the onset of SAD symptoms, utilizing a lightbox to mitigate the effects of seasonal changes.
  • Outdoor Exposure: Spend time outdoors daily, even on cloudy days, as exposure to daylight can positively impact mood.
  • Maintaining Nutritious Eating Habits: Prioritize foods rich in protein, micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber to ensure proper nutrition and energy levels. Reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the meals. 
  • Regular Exercise: Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week to alleviate stress and anxiety, contributing to the management of SAD symptoms.
  • Social Engagement: Stay connected with friends and engage in regular activities to garner support during winter.
  • Seeking Professional Help: Consider consulting a mental health professional trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a highly effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.
  • Medication Consideration: Discuss the possibility of taking an antidepressant with your healthcare provider, particularly if symptoms are severe or persist after trying other treatments. In some cases, medication taken preemptively before the onset of SAD can prevent episodes.
  • Early Treatment Initiation: Consult with your healthcare provider to determine if starting treatment early, as a preventive measure, is suitable for your situation.


For individuals grappling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the outlook is positive, with available treatments providing relief from symptoms. A combination of appropriate diagnosis and treatments tailored to individual needs is essential for achieving positive outcomes.

Do’s and don’ts during SAD

DO’s :

  • Follow your treatment plan as prescribed, including medications or light therapy.
  • To support overall health, prioritize balanced meals, adequate sleep, and regular exercise.
  • Plan activities and stay engaged during the challenging months to prevent isolation.
  • Initiate treatment early, especially if symptoms typically manifest in October.


  • Isolate yourself, as social withdrawal can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Use alcohol or unprescribed drugs, as they may worsen symptoms and interact negatively with antidepressants.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

  • If you suspect symptoms of seasonal depression or another mood disorder, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider. They will assess your condition, rule out other potential causes, and determine an appropriate action.

If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it is important and urgent to seek assistance from a qualified medical professional. Similar to other types of depression, it is essential to rule out any underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to the symptoms. SAD can be diagnosed when other health issues, such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis, or viral infections, are present. Therefore, a thorough evaluation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

A mental health professional can diagnose the condition and explore various therapy options. With appropriate treatment, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be effectively managed.

Let us beat SAD and all other depressions. We must be bold, talk with the therapists, and be informed about these mental health conditions. 


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