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Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD is in the name

Alexis Medeiros

Online Media Manager

For many of us, fall is an exciting time filled with crisp mornings, fun activities and delicious fall-inspired snacks. For some, though, fall marks the start of something much less enjoyable called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

SAD is a term defined as depression that is more prevalent or only occurs, during certain seasons, particularly during fall and winter. The true cause of SAD is unknown, but there appears to be a correlation between the reduced sunlight and the onset of the disorder. According to John Hopkins Medicine, reduced sunlight can result in “a chemical change in the brain leading to symptoms of depression.” Additionally, the sleep-related hormone melatonin tends to increase during the fall and winter months as a result of the increased darkness. Increased melatonin has also shown a positive correlation with depressive mood. In an article by the American Psychiatric Association, “about 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year.” This means that about 390,000,000 people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder for an average of 21 weeks each year. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association states that the disorder “typically starts when a person is between ages 18 and 30.”

Image via by Anete Lusina

According to John Hopkins Medicine, some symptoms of SAD include increased sleep or drowsiness, withdrawal from social activities, irritability, loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed or a general increase in negative moods. This can cause people who are affected to be stripped of the enjoyable fall and winter experiences that many of us look forward to.

SAD can seem like an impossible situation to overcome,but you do not have to wait for spring for your symptoms to improve. One common approach to treating SAD is light therapy. This entails sitting by a light box that emits a bright light for twenty minutes or more each day. If you have access to natural sunlight, spending time in the sun can also be quite beneficial. Some other recommendations to improve symptoms include exercising regularly, finding ways to remain connected to your social groups and even talking about your symptoms with a trusted family member or friend.

If you feel that your symptoms are severe or are not improving with these methods, it is important to seek the help of a professional who can help to find alternative options for treatment.

If you are currently enrolled at Rhode Island College and feel that you need professional support, please contact the Counseling Center at or in their office at Browne Hall.


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