What is seasonal affective disorder? What are the symptoms, and should I see my doctor for this?

Dr. Mark Williams discusses seasonal affective disorder, its symptoms, and when to see your doctor. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What is seasonal affective disorder? What are the symptoms, and should I see my doctor for this?

Seasonal affective disorder is a disorder that's often associated with going from fall, summer/fall into winter.

We think that it is related to the change in the amount of light that you see during the day. So, some of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, people will start to develop symptoms of depression, like sad mood, fatigue, a lack of pleasure in doing things.

Sometimes, they'll get guilty feelings or hopelessness. There is treatment for seasonal affective disorder. So, if you have some of these symptoms, I'd definitely recommend that you see your physician. Some people we treat with seasonal affective disorder, we treat them with antidepressant therapy, just like we would for a nonseasonal depression. The other thing that works is light therapy.


Seasonal affective disorder – often called SAD – is a type of depression that usually only happens in winter, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

People who are at risk of having SAD typically experience the symptoms during the fall and winter, when there is less sunlight, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Symptoms of SAD, according to the NIH, include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in work and other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness

Many people have some symptoms of SAD during fall and winter months, but not in an extreme enough form to be diagnosed with the disorder, according to the APA. People with a mild or moderate form of the symptoms of SAD could have something known as the “winter blues,” which is much more common.

If you think you are exhibiting symptoms of SAD and feel like the change of season is affecting you negatively, talk with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you determine if your symptoms are related to SAD or if there are other issues causing them.

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