Symptoms and Treatment for Seasonal Affective Depression

During the summer months in the Midwest, we enjoy long days and warm weather.  We are able to get outside and exercise as well as have outside social activities.

Many people experience a drop in mood when the days get shorter, darker, and colder.  Sometimes those mood changes can lead to intense feelings of sadness, depression, lack of motivation, sleeping and eating issues and an increased desire to socially isolate from others.  When these feelings lead to a decrease in overall functioning it might be more than the winter blues. It could be something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

People who already struggle with depression are at an increased risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in which an individual experiences several of the symptoms I discussed above. 

Other SAD symptoms can be:

  • weight gain/loss
  • social withdrawal from others
  • difficulties with concentration
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • suicidal thoughts can accompany these other symptoms

These feelings are very hard on a person.  They can cause you to doubt yourself, struggle to complete tasks, and negatively impact your relationships.  SAD is a legitimate form of depression and can be serious.  When people are unaware that SAD is actually a form of depression, they can blame themselves or feel guilty.

Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health and they are, in fact not separate from one another.  Millions of adults suffer from SAD, so remember that you are not alone.  The pandemic has exacerbated depression and anxiety struggles for many people.

Treatment for SAD

Common treatments for SAD include UV light therapy, where an individual sits near a light that mimics UV rays from the sun for 30-60 minutes a day.  You can purchase these lights on Amazon.  Regular exposure to sunlight improves mood. 

Other treatments include 

  • vitamin D
  • counseling
  • anti-depressant medication

Generally, antidepressants work by balancing neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that impact mood.  They can improve feelings of sadness, sleep issues, memory, concentration, and some of the other symptoms of depression.   Medications can be obtained through your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist.

If you experience suicidal thoughts or are concerned about someone who does, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at  800-273-8255 for assistance.

About Dr. Katherine Helm

Katherine is a Chicagoland native, professor, and psychologist who enthusiastically wants to help people have strong mental health and healthy, fulfilling relationships. Katherine is a licensed psychologist with over 24 years of experience working with adolescents, adults, couples and groups in multiple clinical settings including college counseling, psychiatric hospitals, community mental health, and private practice. She has authored multiple books on working with couples, sex education for high school and college students, and mental health issues in the African American community. Currently, she is the Director of a Clinical Mental Health Graduate Programs for Lewis University. You can learn more about her areas of expertise at:

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