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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that happens during a change of seasons. SAD usually happens during autumn and winter months when there is less sunlight because the days are shorter. This is called winter-onset depression. Symptoms usually go away in late spring or early summer. Episodes of SAD may be mild or severe.


Call 911 if:

  • You have thoughts of harming or killing yourself.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antidepressants may be given to help improve your mood.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage SAD:

  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help improve depression and make you feel less anxious.
    Black Family Walking for Exercise
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole-grain foods, and low-fat dairy products. Limit sugar and foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as cookies and cake.
    Healthy Foods
  • Create a sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each day.
  • Increase your exposure to light. Turn on lamps in your home. Go outside several times during the day. Even on cloudy days, you will be in helpful sunlight. If possible, visit areas that get more light than where you live.
  • Manage stress. Stress can increase depression and make it harder to sleep.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. Ask your healthcare provider for more information if you need help quitting.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.