Do you have SAD (seasonal affective disorder)?

Each winter, 500,000 people in the United States are said to become depressed and suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The cause of this disorder is the decrease in the amount of available daytime light, an amount that drops from the long days of summer months.

It’s not the lack of light that causes a drop in mood specifically, it’s how that drop in light causes reactions in the body. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that lack of light can do one of three things in the body to cause depression. (1) It disrupts the natural rhythms of the body, which include our natural clock for sleeping and waking up. (2) An increase in the body’s level of melatonin, which has a sleep-inducing effect, rises during winter nights, possibly causing depression. (3) A drop in serotonin, a natural brain chemical that uplifts mood, could cause an impact because it drops with the decrease in sunlight.

Symptoms of SAD include: fatigue, lethargy, a desire for sweets and carbohydrates, overeating, weight gain, poor concentration, loss of motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Any of these symptoms experienced on a consistent basis should be examined further by a psychological/ or medical practitioner.

I have many of these symptoms. I don’t believe that my high sensitivity contributes to this disorder. Awareness that I’m susceptible to SAD helps me cope and take action to alleviate symptoms. These actions include:

* Going Outdoors– I find that going outdoors literally and figuratively wakes me up. On cold days, I bundle up and let the sun hit my face and eyes. It’s been suggested to me to go without sunglasses and a hat if possible.

* Exercise– Exercise acts as a natural tranquilizer for me all year around. Almost any activity will help to counter a sense of “cabin fever.” Exercise releases stress hormones.

* Laugh– Laughter starts a cascade of “feel good” chemicals in your bloodstream.

* Organize– Use your indoor time to organize your home, office, etc. You’ll feel better by having the feeling of accomplishment and an uncluttered living space.

* Acupuncture–I have found acupuncture very beneficial to get my mind and body better balanced.

Do you have SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

7 thoughts on “Do you have SAD (seasonal affective disorder)?”

  1. Thanks, Cliff, for this article. All your suggestions are excellent! SAD has been a life-long challenge for me too. Being of Nordic heritage may be an added factor. Being an HSP also tends to amplify things, whatever it is. Some days there is no sun (even in sunny California) to get out into. I have found the use of a light box on those days to be helpful (research supports this is a useful therapy and was recommended by my doctor). Exercise and movement, indoors and outdoors, are vital. A little more coffee helps me too.

  2. I love all four suggestions, and they work…unless it’s raining. I find that it’s those grey, rainy days that affect me worst. But I’ve fairly recently started ‘walking to work’ after realising that I was dropping further and further in motivation and energy working from home. I get a lift with my wife to her work (about a mile and a half from home), and then I walk back home again. The exercise, fresh air, and feeling that I’m actually going somewhere as opposed to simply stepping into my office makes a huge difference to my mental attitude. I just need to work out how to do something similar at the END of the day, walking home FROM work again!

    Thanks for this insight.

  3. Cliff, I’m not sure how I didn’t come across your website before, but I’m so glad to have found you. I’ve suffered from SAD pretty badly in the past but it hasn’t bothered me for the past two winters. I think I got relief because we had two mild winters in a row here in southeast Michigan, and because I started taking a Vitamin D supplement (5,000 IU dosage) on the advice of my doctor. All that being said, however, this year I find myself struggling again. The sheer awfulness of this weather has kept me cooped up indoors more than normal and I’m dealing with it day by day, hoping to ward off the worst symptoms.
    One thing I discovered just a couple days ago has helped me a lot: painting my house with some cheerful colors. Right now I’ve got big test swatches of a lovely blue, like the summer sky I’m dreaming of, LOL. My mood lifts every time I walk past one of those patches of blue.
    Thanks for the post!
    P.S. I’m an HSP writer blogging at — I’d love it if you’d stop by!

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your input!

      Isn’t it amazing how environment, indoor and outdoor, makes a big difference in our lives! I forgot to mention that acupuncture has been a big help to me.

      I love your blog! I’ll be following you!

  4. Cliff,

    I have suffered from SAD since my mid twenties. I only recently came across the notion of HSP, and I strongly identify with the descriptions. It makes a lot of sense to me that there would be a relationship between the two. During the winter months, I become terribly lethargic and often easily overwhelmed.

    To treat my SAD, I have found light therapy, exercise, stimulating projects, and medication all to be helpful (medication alone helps with my mood, but not so much my energy level). I also suspect that a low-starch diet has been a factor in the past, although I have not had the courage to give it another shot.

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