Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Causes & Symptoms

Do you tend to start feeling unhappy around the same time each year? If so, you might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that the American Psychiatric Association estimates affects about 5% of U.S. adults. Below, we explore what causes SAD and describe the symptoms that it often produces.

What Causes SAD?

Researchers are still working to determine exactly what causes seasonal affective disorder. However, studies suggest that SAD may be connected to circadian rhythms, melatonin levels, and serotonin levels, all of which can be affected by the changing seasons.

What Are the Symptoms of SAD?

As its name suggests, seasonal affective disorder is related to the change in seasons, beginning and ending around the same time each year. Most people with this condition tend to feel depressed in fall and winter, but some grow depressed in spring and summer. When SAD occurs, it can make someone:

  • Feel agitated, anxious, guilty, hopeless, irritable, listless, sad, sluggish, tired, or worthless
  • Lose interest in their favorite activities
  • Find it difficult to focus
  • Sleep more or less than usual
  • Lose their appetite or overeat (particularly carbohydrates), leading to weight loss or gain

In some especially severe cases, individuals with SAD may experience suicidal thoughts.

Do You Have SAD?

If you’re experiencing the seasonal affective disorder symptoms listed above, you could benefit from speaking to a therapist with experience treating this condition. Our team has worked with numerous patients living with SAD, and we’ll be glad to meet with you and discuss the issues you’ve been experiencing. And if we determine that you do have SAD, we’ll recommend a customized course of treatment. Contact us today to schedule your first therapy session.