Mental Health

Seasonal Affective Disorder and its Connection to Depression: Recognizing the Link 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) refers to a type of depression that’s closely related to seasonal changes. The disorder typically begins and ends at the same time each year. 

For most people, its symptoms manifest at the beginning of the fall season and go well into the winter season, leaving them feeling moody and without enough energy. 

Often, these symptoms will go away on their own during the spring and summer seasons. 

However, there are instances when its symptoms can lead to depression in the early spring and summer months, only for them to go away at the start of the fall or winter seasons. 


SAD symptoms will, in most cases, appear in late fall or winter. As mentioned above, the reverse can also happen, although this is less common. 

No matter when the symptoms manifest, they’ll usually start out as mild cases before becoming more severe as the days go by. 

Some of the symptoms that link it to depression include: 

• Losing interest in activities a person once found enjoyable 

• Feeling sluggish and having low energy levels 

• Having problems with too much sleep 

• Feeling sad, listless, or down nearly every day or for the better part of the day 

• Having suicidal thoughts 

• Overeating, gaining weight, and craving carbs 

• Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty 

• Having problems focusing and concentrating on tasks 

Type of Seasonal Affective Disorder 

SAD can manifest itself in two ways: 

Fall and Winter SAD 

This type of SAD is, at times, called winter depression. Its symptoms, which are specific to the onset of the winter season, include: 

• Low energy or tiredness 

• Oversleeping

• Weight gain 

• Appetite changes, particularly a craving for carbs 

Spring and Summer SAD 

It’s the opposite of the winter depression and is called the summer depression. 

Its symptoms are: 

• Increased irritability 

• Insomnia 

• Anxiety or agitation 

• Weight loss 

• Poor appetite 

Risk Factors for SAD 

SAD is more prevalent in women than men and will normally occur more in younger adults as compared to their older counterparts. Examples of factors that can increase one’s risk are: 

1. Low Vitamin D Levels: The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, helping to boost serotonin activity. Less sunlight can lead to low levels of vitamin D. 

2. Family History: Individuals suffering from SAD have an increased probability of having relatives with the same condition or a different type of depression. 

3. Living Far from the Equator: The condition is more common among individuals who live far south or north of the equator. It could be due to longer days during the summer or reduced sunlight during the winter. 

4. Having Bipolar Disorder or Major Depression: Depression-related symptoms can worsen with season changes if you suffer from these conditions. 


Scientists have yet to find a way to prevent the onset of SAD. However, its symptoms are manageable if a person acts early, which can prevent them from worsening. 

Knowing when the symptoms set in makes it possible to take Bupropion medication early to help ward off serious changes in energy, appetite, and mood levels.

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