American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

More Than the Blues: Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

From early September through the first part of April, the decrease in natural daylight could trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Changes in the amount of daylight upset the body's internal clock and serotonin levels, the chemicals in your brain that affect mood.

If you live in an area where there is still an abundant amount of sunlight in the winter, you are less likely to be affected by this disorder.

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You might have more than a case of the winter blues if you experience:

  • Extreme fatigue, difficulty getting up in the morning or sleeping much more than usual.

  • Loss of energy.

  • Depression.

  • Increased appetite, weight gain or craving carbohydrates.

Seeking Treatment

One treatment option includes daily light therapy called phototherapy. During this treatment, patients are seated a few feet away from a light therapy box, which emits a significantly higher amount of light than natural light.

Other treatment options for SAD include medications, such as antidepressants; therapy; getting more exercise; and learning stress management techniques. 

Osteopathic physicians stress that because seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression, people should seek help and not self-diagnose or self-treat this condition. If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, talk to your physician about treatment options.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well.


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