American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Those Winter Blues Could Be Sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Even though you may not know it, the decrease in light during the winter can affect your well-being. Millions of Americans are affected by SAD, seasonal affective disorder.

Statistics show that 60-90% of people diagnosed with SAD are women and that older teens and young adults are most likely to suffer from this condition. Further research indicates that geographic location plays a role as well, meaning  people living in areas where there is still an abundant amount of sunlight during winter are less likely to be affected by this disorder. Seasonal affective disorder begins to affect people as early as September through the first part of April.


SAD has been around for well over a century but has only recently been recognized as a disorder. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • 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

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings

Osteopathic physicians stress that because it is a form of depression, people should seek help when dealing with seasonal affective disorder. This is not a condition that should be self-diagnosed or self-treated.

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. They also encourage your body's natural tendency toward self-healing.

Causes and Treatments

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have concluded that SAD is primarily due to sunlight deprivation. As a result of this finding, one option of treatment includes daily light therapy called phototherapy. During this treatment, patients are seated a few feet away from a full-spectrum fluorescent light, which is about 12 times brighter than a room’s regular light. 

The cornerstone of treatments for SAD remains medications like antidepressants, therapy, increase in exercise and stress management. 

If you’re feeling blue again this winter, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder. The important thing to remember is to seek an evaluation from your physician. It’s also important to note that there are treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of SAD. ​​​​


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