Why fall makes me SAD

autumn trees on a slate grey sky photoAs told by Kat D-A to Kate D-H

Posted November 30, 2011

For many people, autumn is a great season:  a time for hayrides, harvest festivals and holidays. But for me and millions of others, it means the return of Season Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression. Its symptoms usually occur when days grow shorter and sunlight gets scarcer in the fall and winter.

While we don’t know the specific cause of SAD, experts think that reduced sunlight affects serotonin and melatonin levels, which are the brain chemicals that regulate sleep patterns and mood.  SAD is believed to affect 6%* of people in the United States.

What are the symptoms?

SAD is more than just the “winter blues.”  It can be a serious illness with potentially severe symptoms such as:

  • Change in appetite and cravings, especially foods with carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Oversleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Disinterest in activities that are usually regularly enjoyed

Treating SAD

Medications, light therapy, talk therapy or a combination of these help to treat the symptoms of SAD.

For me, a combination of medication and light therapy works. From September to April, I start my morning with 30 minutes in front of a specially designed lamp called a light box. The bright light given off by the box mimics the natural daylight that my body is missing during the fall and winter months.

Different treatments work for different people, so talk to your with your doctor to find the best way to help.

For more info about SAD and SAD treatments:

* Source: Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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