Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)


It’s not uncommon to notice your mood change in response to the seasons or weather. Cloudy, rainy days might make you feel gloomy and tired, whereas bright, sunny days may have the opposite effect. In fact, we now know that longer periods of sunshine are typically associated with better moods, while the shorter, darker days of winter can increase depressive symptoms and lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

At Achieve Concierge, we know how frustrating it can be to deal with a mental health condition that disrupts your ability to function for months at a time. It might be difficult to cope with these symptoms, but we can help make it easier with highly personalized treatments designed to help you feel and function your best year-round.


SAD is a mood disorder similar to depression. It’s characterized by symptoms such as persistent feelings of sadness, fatigue and changes in sleep or appetite that tend to occur at the same time every year. Most people are affected during the winter months, when the days are shorter and less sunlight is available.

Unlike other mood disorders, SAD is believed to be caused by a disturbance in the body’s normal circadian rhythm that’s triggered by more hours of darkness in the fall and winter. Seasonal changes are also associated with an overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood.

While the condition usually resolves within a few months, it can have a major impact on how you think, feel and function. Symptoms can also interfere with work or school, exacerbate other mental health concerns and increase the risk of substance abuse. However, it is possible to make the winter months more bearable with effective strategies and support.


The symptoms of SAD are similar to depression, but are cyclical and return at the same time each year. Symptoms typically last for 4 — 5 months and may include:

For most people, symptoms arrive in the fall or winter, but rarely, they begin in the spring or summer. In both cases, the signs of SAD start out mild and get worse as the season progresses. However, there are treatments available that can help you manage your symptoms and feel your best no matter what time of the year it is.


SAD can affect anyone, but certain factors can increase your risk of developing this condition. Understanding these risk factors can help you gain insight into the underlying causes of SAD and take proactive steps to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.


Location plays a significant role in the prevalence of SAD. The condition occurs more frequently in regions farther from the equator, such as Canada or Alaska, where the daylight hours are significantly shorter during the winter season. In contrast, it is less common in sunnier areas like Florida. Less sunlight is linked to disruptions in our circadian rhythm and may affect the production of neurotransmitters that balance mood, triggering the onset of symptoms as the days get shorter and natural light becomes less available.


SAD occurs more frequently in women than men. While the reasons for this gender difference are not yet fully understood, fluctuating hormone levels are thought to play a role. However, men can also develop SAD and experience feelings of depression during the winter. The symptoms of SAD typically begin in early adulthood and become less common with age.


If you have a personal or family history of mental health conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder, you might be at a higher risk of developing SAD. Existing vulnerabilities in mood regulation and emotional well-being can be further exacerbated by seasonal changes and contribute to the onset of symptoms. It’s crucial to be aware of your mental health history and monitor your well-being as the weather begins to change.


Certain lifestyle factors can impact the likelihood of experiencing seasonal depression. People who spend most of their time indoors and shift workers may be more vulnerable due to irregular sleep patterns, limited exposure to sunlight and disrupted circadian rhythms. Chronic illnesses, substance use and bipolar disorder also increase the risk of SAD.


SAD can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication. However, holistic methods such as light therapy, vitamin D supplements and improved self-care are also commonly used. Depending on your needs, our team will recommend an approach tailored to you.

Therapy can help you develop new tools and strategies for managing the symptoms of seasonal depression. Certain techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), emphasize identifying and changing negative thought patterns, engaging in pleasurable or enjoyable activities, and shifting your perspective to proactively cope with the wintertime.

Some people also benefit from antidepressants to alleviate their symptoms, especially if they’re more severe. These are thought to work by changing a chemical imbalance in the brain that occurs during certain times of the year. Your therapist will work with you to determine if medication is a suitable treatment option and help you find the right dose.

Light therapy is one the most commonly prescribed methods for fall or winter-onset SAD and involves exposure to specialized lamps that mimic natural sunlight. Light therapy has very few side effects, and most people notice a difference within a few days. However, it should be combined with other proven treatments like therapy or medication for the best results.

Finally, improved self-care, exercise, healthy eating, support groups and mindfulness practices can also help reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression. At Achieve Concierge, we understand that treating the whole person is essential in managing the symptoms of SAD. Alongside therapy and, if necessary, medication, we utilize a variety of holistic techniques to provide a comprehensive, balanced and well-rounded approach to your care.

Schedule a Consultation at Achieve Concierge Today

Seasonal shifts in your mood are common, but if symptoms persist or begin to interfere with your daily life, it might be time to seek help. SAD is a serious mental health concern that can negatively impact your well-being. However, you can achieve and sustain a balanced mood any time of the year with the right treatments, whether it’s the fall, winter, spring or summer.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about our comprehensive treatment options, complete our online contact form or call us at 619-393-6456 to schedule a consultation. Our team is here to listen, understand and provide you with the personalized care you deserve.

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