Seasonal Affective Disorder Effects Over 3 million People in the U.S.

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Feeling an onset of sadness? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of mood disorder associated with seasonal changes. Commonly seen as depression arising during the winter months. It happens due to a disturbance in the circadian system of the body.


SAD is said to occur due to changes in the body’s internal clock, and changes in brain and body’s chemicals.



Feeling depressed on most days, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, reduced energy, concentration, and interest in activities especially during winters are the commonly noted symptoms.


Diagnosis is based on detailed medical history and thorough psychiatric evaluation. Doctor may also suggest some tests to rule out other medical conditions.


Treatable & diagnosed by a medical professional

Often requires lab test or imaging

Can last several months or years

Common for ages 18-35

Family history may increase likelihood

Most cases of SAD begin during late fall or early winter and go away during spring or summer


Reduced energy

Loss of concentration and interest in activities

Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

Trouble sleeping/oversleeping

Nausea, loss of appetite/craving for fatty or carbohydrate rich foods

Weight loss/weight gain

Suicidal thoughts


The exact cause for SAD is not known but some of the factors that are said to influence the condition include: Changes in the body’s internal clock due to seasonal changes. Reduced levels of the brain chemical serotonin. An imbalance in the chemical melatonin that influences sleep and mood patterns. Vitamin D insufficiency.

Your doctor may also suggest some tests to rule out other medical conditions such as;

Blood test

May be recommended to determine the blood cell counts, check for infections, or other medical conditions such as thyroid problems.

Psychological examination

Mental health professionals use question-answer type tools for evaluating and assessing the patient’s disorder.


Light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy are the treatments available for SAD. It is important to let the doctor know of your other medical conditions, including bipolar disorder, to avoid any side effects from any of the medications or therapies.

Complications, if untreated may include:

Social withdrawal

Drug or substance abuse


Follow a healthy, nutritious diet

Monitor your mood and energy levels

Take adequate rest

Learn to manage stress

Avoid alcohol

Try and connect with people to avoid loneliness

Take a trip to cooler or warm locations depending on the type of SAD you have

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

Do I have to make any changes to my diet or lifestyle?

How do I manage my symptoms?

Can I have a family with this condition?

What are the likely chances that this will be passed on to my children?

Foods to eat:

Vitamin D rich foods: e.g. fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, fish oil, fortified milk, egg yolk

Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids: e.g. oily, fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, anchovies, flaxseed, hemp, canola, and walnut oils

Berries: e.g. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries

Foods rich in folic acid: e.g. leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, fortified cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans

Foods to avoid:

Sugary foods

For informational purposes only. Consult your medical professional or a licensed qualified therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist for advice.

Source: Focus Medica –

*Note: The information in this article was compiled from various sources. These suggestions are not a complete list of every preventative or loss control measure. This information is not intended to replace additional safety manuals or the advice of another qualified professional(s). We make no guarantee of results from the use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.