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Holiday Blues vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder

Issue 31

Distinguishing Temporary from Seasonal Sadness

in partnership with Webshrink

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a kind of sadness that happens at certain times of the year. Since SAD is often linked to the lack of light, some are affected during cloudy or rainy weather at any time of the year, or those that work in offices without windows or live in basement apartments. These lower light environments tend to also create a drop in your Vitamin D levels which can impact SAD.

Many people feel this way in winter when it’s cold and there’s less sunlight, but others feel sadness in the summer with the change of seasons.

How Can You Tell If Someone Has SAD?

If someone has SAD, during certain seasons they might:

  • Feel really sad or tired.
  • Want to sleep a lot or eat more, especially sweets and starchy food (in winter).
  • Have trouble sleeping or not feel like eating much (in summer).
  • Not want to play or hang out with friends.
  • Have difficulty concentrating

Why Do Some People Get SAD?

  • Doctors aren’t totally sure why SAD happens. They think it might have to do with less sunlight, which can affect our body’s clock and make us feel sad.
  • Our body makes certain things like serotonin (a brain chemical that makes us feel happy) and melatonin (a chemical that helps us sleep) that can get mixed up because of the change in light.

How Is SAD Different from Just Feeling Sad Around the Holidays?

SAD is different from feeling a little sad or grumpy during holidays. SAD lasts longer and happens around the same time every year.

Who Usually Gets SAD?

SAD can happen to anyone, but it’s more common if:

  • You live far from the equator where there are big changes in weather during the year.
  • You’re a young adult or woman.
  • Someone in your family also gets SAD in certain seasons.

How Do Doctors Know If Someone Has SAD?

Doctors can tell if someone has SAD by talking to them about their feelings and when they feel sad. They have special questions to figure out if it’s SAD or something else.

What Can You Do If You Have SAD?

  • Light Therapy: Sitting near a special light that’s like sunlight can help.
  • Talk to Someone: Sometimes talking to a therapist can make you feel better.
  • Medicine: In some cases, doctors might give medicine to help with the sadness.
  • Take Vitamin D: Supplements may help for individuals experiencing SAD.

What Can You Do To Feel Better?

  • Spend Time Outside: Even when it’s cold or cloudy, being outside during daylight can help.
  • Stay Active: Play sports, go for walks, or do fun activities.
  • Talk About Your Feelings: It’s okay to tell someone if you’re feeling sad, especially during certain seasons.

Remember, if you or a friend feels sad when the weather changes, it’s important to talk to someone or a doctor. Visit webshrink.com for more information.

Webshrink's goal is to provide clinical insight, research news, personal stories, and expert perspectives on mental health & addiction. They are a diverse, experienced team of clinicians, researchers, and editors dedicated to answering your questions about mental health. You’ll find comprehensive support that’s original, authoritative, and trustworthy. All of the content is cited with references, fact-checked, and reviewed by a physician who is board-certified in psychiatry, addiction medicine, or both. You’ll find community, too, through the personal stories shared by everyday people to the therapeutic bridges we’ll strive to build between you and the help you seek. WebShrink…help for when life hurts. Webshrink has permitted Journey Magazine to publish articles from their website (webshrink.com) for this column. A special thank you to Dr. Ed Bilotti and his team for allowing us to amplify their work! Please visit their website - webshrink.com to learn more

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