Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

By Liseia Parisian Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that can be brought on by the changing of seasons and is sometimes called the “Autumn Blues” or the “Winter Blues”. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD typically begins and ends roughly the same time every year. For most people, this type of depression starts in the autumn and continues until late spring when the weather becomes warm and sunny but can also occur in the spring or summer months. SAD predominantly occurs in younger adults, but it can also affect older adults.

The Mayo Clinic points out the role sunlight can play in causing SAD. Less sunlight in fall and winter can disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause winter-onset SAD. The National Institute of Mental Health highlights the following risk factors and symptoms of SAD:

  • Family history – People with relatives that struggle with SAD are more susceptible to developing symptoms as well.
  • Having a form of depression or bipolar disorder – Symptoms of existing mood disorders may worsen as the seasons change if you have already been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Being female – According to one study, women are four times more likely to develop SAD than men.
  • Living far from the equator – Research also shows that those who live far from the equator tend to be more likely to experience SAD.
  • Over-production of melatonin – Changes in the seasons can throw off the balance of melatonin which is a hormone that helps both mood and sleep.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty,
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed,
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight,
  • Having low energy,
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide,
  • Having problems with sleeping,
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated, or
  • Having difficulty concentrating

If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms do not lose hope! There are different treatments available for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but common treatments for it are light therapy (phototherapy) and medications and mental health counseling. There is a host of help and resources that can assist you in feeling better. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as you start experiencing these symptoms for guidance on your best course of action.

Liseia Parisian is a Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since March 2020. As a Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan, Liseia advocates for seniors and those with disabilities, helping them locate services to increase their quality of life by making sure they have access to food, housing, and healthcare.