Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Real?

It comes in and blankets your heart like the fallen snow.

You’ll feel the shadow slithering in around autumn until your heart pushes through the dark earth to find the sun once again – around the same time the daffodils are emerging through the soil of the flower beds.

What is this villain?

S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder

is seasonal affective disorder real


Is seasonal affective disorder real?

I’ve come across a number of articles and studies this year that claim S.A.D. doesn’t exist. Like this one from the Department of Psychology, Auburn University at Montgomery, AL:

Results do not support the validity of a seasonal modifier in major depression. The idea of seasonal depression may be strongly rooted in folk psychology, but it is not supported by objective data. Consideration should be given to discontinuing seasonal variation as a diagnostic modifier of major depression. ~ source


This has had me a bit angry as I experience mild symptoms and know of friends who experience even greater symptoms. What’s going on here? It took years to get to the point where S.A.D. was finally considered diagnosable and, in some cases, offered insurable treatments.

I’m personally going to continue believing S.A.D. is real, diagnosable and treatable. After years of scientific studies to investigate and reveal the connections between the seasons and this change in mood, I’m not going to discount this disorder after a few new studies. Mental health issues are real and when so many people give personal accounts of the changing of the seasons affecting their mental well-being there has to be something to it.

So in light of my continuing belief that it’s real, here are handful of common symptoms reported by those with S.A.D.

  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Carb cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Feelings of apathy
  • Increased sleep
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Heavy feelings in legs and arms
  • Irritability


Also, I wanted to note a few more insights:

  • Between 60% and 90% of individuals with S.A.D. are women.
  • This illness seems to increase in people who live further from the equator.  North American studies have shown 1.5% of those in Tampa, Florida report having this as opposed to 9% in New Hampshire.
  • Oddly enough, in Iceland, not many people experience this.  Studies show there may be a cultural element that certain areas of the world have adapted to how they live life in these darker day environments. These cultural factors include genetics, exercise, socialization and diet.

If you feel you suffer from S.A.D. it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.

Don’t just ignore how you feel and hope things change in the spring.

Your doctor will want to know how long this had been a problem for you. If this is the first year you’ve experienced these symptoms your doctor isn’t likely to diagnose you at this point. A diagnosis usually requires more than one symptomatic season. However, still make the appointment and go see the doctor. He can offer help through this season and it’s always good to have it noted in your medical file for reference if you suffer the same problems next year!

Some will have milder forms of seasonal mood disorders but not quite depression. This is more commonly known as “winter blues” and may respond well to light therapy (example, Light box with 10,000 lux florescent lights or exposure to sun) and Vitamin D supplementation.

Other forms of S.A.D. management include:

  • Anti-depressants/medication
  • Tryptophan
  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Relapse prevention
  • Dawn simulator

If you or someone you love battles these symptoms I urge you to see your doctor. You don’t have to go through this rough season alone!

So what do you think? Do you ever experience S.A.D. or know someone that does? How do you feel about these new studies reporting S.A.D. doesn’t exist?




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10 thoughts on “Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Real?

  1. I am currently age 51. I started experiencing SAD between the ages of 10 and 12 and it has stayed with me since. I have also been diagnosed with chronic severe depression, PTSD and fibromyalgia. If I don’t treat my SAD with a full spectrum light, the rest of my issues are harder to treat.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Gail. I’m so sorry you have to endure all this. You sure are being vigilant with your treatment and watching your symptoms. (hugs)

  2. I didn’t realize the winter blues had a diagnosis, but not surprised. Being an active member of a family that has battled depression for generations, I have two great frustrations. Depression has to be recognized and fought against daily. I am so thankful God doesn’t want me to fight alone. The other is the that annoys beyond words is the disconnect/denial of those not afflicted. PRAISE GOD again for his grace and mercy when we don’t receive it from those we love. Blessings for your day!

    • Thanks for commenting Alice. You’re so right, we have to fight it daily. There are days I get tired of the fight but things only get worse if I don’t. I also feel annoyed by those who discount our issues/illnesses when they’ve never experienced it. I’m glad God’s given you some individuals that support you!

  3. I feel like I have reverse SAD because I live in the south. My winters are spent outside enjoying the beautiful weather, but in the summer I am stuck inside all the time and it makes me depressed. I’m not sure that this is a real thing though!

    • I’m sure you’re not the only one who experiences that! The seasons have a huge effect on people. Whenever you can’t go about doing what you normally do and get stuck inside more often it’s going to affect you negatively!

  4. I grew up in Alaska. SAD is absolutely real. Just ask my cousin who moved to AK for college (from NJ). She was fine for the first couple months of school. Then winter hit. She missed a fair number of classes and struggled to make herself go to work. She ate so much that she gained around 15 lbs, and she was normally very slender.

    Definitely talk with a medical professional to be sure you know your options. But I have to say, there are some very affordable SAD lights on Amazon. If you’re suffering from the disorder, invest in one! You’ll feel more wakeful within 5-10 minutes, and if you use it regularly you should see an improvement. It’s not a magic bullet, but it should help.

    • Thanks for your tips Abigail! It’s always good to hear a story from a person “in the know.” I’m sure living up there you knew quite a few that were affected by the winter months.

  5. My husband has major depression but the season change makes it worse. It’s not quite SAD but the lack of daylight and being cooped up inside are definitely contributors to worsening of his major depression. I have lots of friends with actual SAD.