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Posts Tagged ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’

Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) As the Days Become Darker. By Our Student Pharmacist for September, Kelly Brookbank.


As painstakingly sad as it is to admit, daylight savings time is coming to an end. On November 6, we will be setting our clocks backwards by one hour, meaning there will be less daylight in the evening hours. As winter approaches, the days get shorter and the temperatures continue to drop, making it a greater challenge to maintain our fitness and overall health.

During the winter months, some of us get a case of the “winter blues,” leaving us less energized and depressed. The “winter blues” are in fact tied to a real condition. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinical diagnoses requiring medical attention. It is not typically common or severe within the general population, but those with depressive disorders may be affected more.

SAD is a subtype of mood disorders, such as depression, that repeatedly occurs during particular seasons. It is not surprising that winter depression, which onsets in the fall and winter months and remits in the spring, is the most common type of SAD.

Treatment options for SAD include antidepressants, light therapy, and psychotherapy.


Symptoms of winter SAD:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Having a bigger appetite than usual
  • Craving starchy or sweet foods
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Feeling rejected
  • Feeling as though your arms and legs are weighted down

Adjunctive therapy is encouraged:

  • Sleep hygiene
  • Daily walks outside
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Enhanced indoor lighting with regular lamps and fixtures
  • Awakening from sleep with a light

During the winter months, it can be very challenging to continue working out, especially in natural sunlight. It is always important to uphold a healthy lifestyle, but sustaining it throughout the winter can help maintain your physical and mental health and may even keep some of those winter blues away!!

If you feel like you suffer from SAD or have thoughts of harming yourself, please contact a healthcare professional immediately.


Seasonal Affective Disorder. UpToDate. Wolters Kluwer. Waltham, MA. Accessed 9/18/2016

Seasonal Affective Disorder. Patient Education- Disease and Procedure. Lexicomp. Wolters Kluwer. Hudson, OH. Available at https://online.lexi.com. Accessed 9/21/2016

Photo copyright, Charles Schulz, “Peanuts” comic stip.


Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Dark, Dreary Months of Winter. By Our Student Pharmacist, Abbey Strazar.


It’s that time of the year again where darkness consumes your early commute and greets you as you are finishing your work day. Many individuals are able to cope with the shortened days and colder temperatures. However, some individuals have a harder time with the change. This phenomenon has been named seasonal affective disorder or “SAD” for short.

SAD usually begins and ends consistently around the same time each year for patients. Most people, if they develop SAD, develop it in the fall and continue to have it into the winter months. However, there are some individuals who develop SAD in the spring and continue to have symptoms into the summer; this however is much less common.


Some common symptoms of SAD are:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with others
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Increased sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Cravings for foods high in carbohydrates

You may be reading these symptoms and diagnosing yourself or a loved one with SAD. Be careful labeling yourself or others as many people will experience these symptoms during the winter months, but do not fit the criteria of being clinically diagnosed with SAD.

On the other hand, if you experience these symptoms for days at a time or realize that activities that used to make you happy do not any more, it may be time to talk to your physician. This is especially true if your sleep or appetite drastically changes or you have thoughts of suicide or turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort.


There are some risk factors that put individuals at a greater risk for developing SAD and they include:

  • Being Female
  • Younger age
  • Having a family history of SAD
  • Living farther from the equator
  • Having a history of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder

Although it is not completely understood why some individuals develop SAD, the following are thought to be contributing factors:

  • Circadian rhythm: The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your internal clock which may lead to depression.
  • Serotonin: The reduction in sunlight may decrease the levels of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for feeling good. Consequently, a decrease in this substance would cause someone to feel “down” or sad.
  • Melatonin: The change in seasons can alter the concentration of melatonin within an individual. This could be the reason for changes in sleep pattern and mood.


You may be wondering how you can treat this condition, especially since we live in Ohio and it is inevitable that our weather will stay consistently dark and gloomy. Below are the following treatment options, along with things that can be done at home to help ease the symptoms and improve one’s mood.

  • Light Therapy:
    • Mimics natural outdoor light which may help alter brain chemicals to improve mood. This is considered first line treatment for fall-winter SAD.
  • Psychotherapy: 
    • Also referred to as “talk therapy.”
  • Medications: 
    • Some patients with severe SAD may benefit from antidepressants, especially Wellbutrin (bupropion). If patients tend to have SAD repeatedly during the same seasons, their doctor may start them on an antidepressant before fall.
  • Alternative options:
    • Brighten your day, literally. Open blinds, trim branches that block the natural sunlight from entering your house, or add skylights. Also, try to sit by windows even when you are stuck inside.
    • Get outside regardless of the weather. This is especially helpful if you can do it within two hours after getting up–very convenient if you have a pet who needs a good walk!
    • Exercise, exercise, exercise!!!

Hopefully this information will help you or a loved one during this upcoming winter!


Infograph from the following web site: http://www.accesshealthcareservices.com/beating-winter-blues-guide-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

First image in blog, courtesy of: http://www.yellowbrickprogram.com/seasonal-affective-disorder.html