Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that is triggered by the seasons of the year. The most common type of SAD is called winter-onset depression. Symptoms usually begin in late fall or early winter and go away by summer.

Between 4% and 6 % of people in the U.S. suffer from SAD. Another 10% to 20% may experience a mild form of winter-onset SAD. SAD is more common in women than in men. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than 20 years of age. For adults, the risk of SAD decreases as they get older.

COMMON SYMPTOMS of winter-onset SAD include the following:

  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A drop in energy level
  • Fatigue
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed


Because SAD involves more than one system in the brain (the light-mediated clock and the serotonin network), treatments tend to target one or the other. Tandem treatments are sometimes recommended for SAD and may be more effective than a single method by itself. Light therapy, antidepressant medications, and psychotherapy are all used to treat SAD. The mental health professionals at Patricia J. LaFave, Ph.D. and Associates are very experienced in treating this disorder.