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Guide: Signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter, and go away during the spring and summer.

Sandrina Rodrigues

Jan 9, 2024, 9:30 AM

Updated 164 days ago


December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month.
This month is used to educate the public about seasonal depression and the various ways to relieve its symptoms.
Seasonal affective disorder is more prevalent in regions with harsher winters.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many people go through short periods when they feel sad or unlike their usual selves.
In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter, and go away during the spring and summer.
The signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with depression. Some of the symptoms include:
  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of irritability, frustration or restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Changes in sleep or appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause and do not go away with treatment
  • Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
For winter-pattern SAD, additional symptoms can include:
  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates, leading to weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)
For summer-pattern SAD, additional symptoms can include:
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite, leading to weight loss
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
There are treatments available to help people with SAD. Those include:
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Vitamin D
Click here for more information on treatments.

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