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Seasonal Affective Disorder

A seasonal affective disorder is a psychological condition resulting in depressive symptoms usually triggered by a seasonal change. Earlier, it was known as a major depressive disorder with seasonal changes. It is more prevalent among women and adolescents. It is a condition that is seen during the winters, thus sometimes it is also known as winter depression. 

Symptoms of SAD typically start during October- November and end in March or April. They tend to experience these symptoms every year and they mostly remain unrelated to a difficult emotional event or life stressor/ change such as a breakup, loss or divorce. The however seasonal affective disorder doesn’t remain limited to winters. One may also experience this is during the summers. It may be characterised by feelings of sadness, low mood, difficulty sleeping, irritability, agitation, anxiety typically during the summers. 

The exact causal factors for this disorder remain unknown. However, it is more prevalent among those living in areas with typically longer winters where there is a deficiency of sunlight. The lack of sunlight affects hypothalamus which in turn leads to interference in the levels of melatonin ( associated with sleep), serotonin (associated with mood) and the circadian rhythms. People with a history of psychiatric conditions in the family are more prone to develop the condition.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms You should know

There may be individual differences in the way Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms manifest in individuals i.e- it affects people differently. However, here are some common signs and symptoms-

  • Depressed mood

  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities

  • Decreased sleep/ increased sleep (insomnia/hypersomnia)

  • Appetite gets affected

  • Increased fatigability

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feelings of hopelessness/ helplessness

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Weight gain/ loss

  • Reduced sexual interest

  • Decreased social interest

  • Recurrent suicidal thoughts, ideas or gestures

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment

  • Medications– psychopharmacological interventions help restore the chemical balance within the body which can help with minimising symptoms. Medications may prove to be beneficial in treating this condition. 

  • Counselling and psychotherapy- talk therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy can help challenge the negative thoughts, belief systems and depressive cognitions that are associated with the illness.

  • Light therapy- in this form of treatment the individual is subject to usage of a special lamp called the lightbox which acts as an alternative to exposure to natural sunlight

  • Healthy lifestyle changes- inculcating healthy lifestyle habits- such as following a healthy diet, sleep regimen, exercise etc into your routine can help in minimising the symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder.

It is normal to feel sad from time to time and feel low on some days. However, if you feel this is becoming a rather persistent phenomenon then it is a sign that you need to pay attention to this. If you notice that your sleep, appetite and general health is being affected or if you notice that you have been feeling hopeless or suicidal, then it is important that you see a doctor, counsellor or therapist. Please do call us at or visit MindTalk, your neighbourhood centre and get rid of all your emotional turmoils.