Around this time of year, I begin to hear from people who have trouble with what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“I always have trouble this time of year. It’s the season. I can’t take it.”

What distinguishes SAD from regular run-of-the-mill depression is the time of onset, between September and October, when the days become significantly shorter in certain latitudes and the severity of symptoms. The further away from the equator, you live, the less sun there is in the winter. Behavioral scientists believe there is a change in brain chemistry in people susceptible to SAD. Something about how serotonin is processed messes up sleep cycles and mood.

The Basics or the ABC’s of SAD

This article is intended to provide the ABC’s of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder as a brief primer or explanation of the facts. It’s not a substitute for getting the help you need from a qualified and licensed therapist but it may help to provide a basic understanding of this disorder and encourage you to seek therapy.

The ABCs of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder

The ABCs of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms are:

~ Feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
~ Losing interest in your usual activities.
~ Eating more and craving carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
~ Gaining weight.
~ Sleeping more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

People with SAD report feeling relief from symptoms around April or May, as the days’ sunlight increases.


Courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

Some of us just have the blahs around this time of year, not really bad SAD but still not good. Dr. Goldstein, who writes the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog suggests 5 Keys to Preparing for Fall and Winter Blues.


1. Mindfulness training 


2. Exercise

3. Light therapy

4. Gratitude list

5. Connecting with friends and family

How is more serious SAD treated?  Some of the best practices for the treatment of SAD includes:

~ Bright light treatment. For this treatment, you sit in front of a “light box” for half an hour or longer, usually in the morning. Light therapy works well for most people with SAD, and it is easy to use. You may start to feel better within a week or so after you start light therapy. But you need to stick with it and use it every day until the season changes. If you don’t, your depression could come back.
~ Dawn simulation. For this treatment, a dim light goes on in the morning while you sleep, and it gets brighter over time, like a sunrise.
~ Antidepressants. These medicines can improve the balance of brain chemicals that affect mood. Consult with a board certified psychiatrist.
~ Counseling. Some types of counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help you learn more about SAD and how to manage your symptoms.

We know and understand that many people turn to the internet before turning to a therapist. Explore What’s Next wants to always encourage you to talk to a licensed therapist or mental health provider first so that you have a clear cut understanding and guidance of your emotional health. Again, talk to a licensed and professional therapist first. If you’ve done this and you are exploring the topic of Seasonal Affective Disorder we have some resources for you to check out. To learn more about SAD read:

WebMD on SAD

About the Winter Blues

Research Updates: Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments

If you found this article interesting or helpful please share it with a friend. Explore What’s Next is based in the Buffalo and Niagra region of upstate New York. The author of this article is Elvira Aletta. You can read her bio below. Dr. Aletta sees everyday people just like you who need some help and support. Her associates help a range of people who benefit from a range of therapeutic services that Explore What’s Next offers.

Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO

Executive & Personal CoachingIndividual & Relationship Counseling

dr aletta of explore what's nextLife gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.

Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.

Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.

Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.

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