By , On 4th December 2019 Comments Off on Season-related changes

Are you feeling low on energy since the changes of the weather? 

What is S.A.D.?

S.A.D. stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder; which is a recurrent type of major depressive disorder, with a seasonal pattern. It is most common to experience S.A.D. during the fall/winter seasons. People will often experience feelings of sadness and loss and may experience changes in their mood, sleep and appetite (McConville, McQuaid, McCartney, & Gilmore, 2016). Although less common than winter S.A.D., experiencing summer S.A.D. is possible too (Wehr, Sack, & Rosenthal, 1987). To be diagnosed with S.A.D., according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders); one needs to be diagnosed with major depressive episodes for at least two years during a specific season (for example an onset during winter periods), and remittance during a different season (for example rather spontaneous recovery during spring) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The changes that one experiences with S.A.D. are significant changes in either direction, for example: sleeping either much more or much less and eating much more or less. And this is often paired with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger and loss of energy.(American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Melrose, 2015; Winkler et al., 2005)

So, what causes S.A.D.?

The causes of S.A.D. are thought to be multifaceted; consisting of a mix of factors including circumstances, age, biology and psychology (McConville et al., 2016; Partonen & Pandi-Perumal, 2010). Winter S.A.D. is often linked to the decreasing exposure to sunlight which causes the body to increase its sleep hormone production (melatonin). This can make someone feel more sleepy and down. Summer S.A.D., however, is thought to be linked to the increase in temperature, which can lead to sleep deprivation. From an international perspective, rates of winter SAD and subsyndromal SAD are significantly higher in northern latitudes of the globe and predominantly for individuals over 35 (Rosen et al., 1990) or for females of reproductive age (McConville et al., 2016). It is thought to affect 5-10% of the population in Ireland and Britain. (McConville et al., 2016)

Treatment recommendation 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been found to be effective in the treatment of S.A.D. (Kelly et al. 2016; Freed et al., 2005). Rohan Roecklein, Tierney Lindsey, Johnson, Lippy, Lacy, and Barton, (2007) found that light therapy, in combination with talk therapy, can result in remittance of the S.A.D. symptoms. Light therapy is a treatment whereby someone is daily exposed to artificial, full-spectrum light due to the lack of environmental sunlight. 

We at TOP-Clinic, specialise in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy amongst other forms of therapy that could be supportive if you feel like you are experiencing S.A.D. Book a session with us today.

Written by Tim van Wanrooij, 
Bc. SW., H.Dip. Psych, M.Ps.S.I.,
Counselling Psychologist in doctoral training


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

McConville, C., McQuaid, M., McCartney, A., & Gilmore, W. (2016). Mood and Behaviour Problems Associated with Seasonal Changes in Britain and Ireland. International Journal of Social Psychiatry48(2), 103–114.

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression Research and Treatment2015(1), 1–6.

Partonen, T., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2010). Seasonal affective disorder: practice and research.

Rosen, L. N., Targum, S. D., Terman, M., Bryant, M. J., Hoffman, H., Kasper, S. F., et al. (1990). Prevalence of seasonal affective disorder at four latitudes. Psychiatry Research31(2), 131–144.

Rohan, K. J., Roecklein, K. A., Tierney Lindsey, K., Johnson, L. G., Lippy, R. D., Lacy, T. J., & Barton, F. B. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavioural therapy, light therapy, and their combination for seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75(3), 489–500.

Wehr, T. A., Sack, D. A., & Rosenthal, N. E. (1987). Seasonal affective disorder with summer depression and winter hypomania. The American Journal of Psychiatry144(12), 1602–1603.

Winkler, D., Pjrek, E., Konstantinidis, A., Praschak-Rieder, N., Willeit, M., Stastny, J., & Kasper, S. (2005). Anger attacks in seasonal affective disorder. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology9(02), 215–5.

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