PMDA Blog‎ > ‎

What winter brings: SAD

posted Dec 16, 2013, 8:37 PM by Megan Black   [ updated Dec 16, 2013, 8:38 PM ]

It is that time of year again when the weather is colder, the days are shorter and it snows. Some individuals look forward to the fall and winters seasons, they enjoy cozying up to a fireplace, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, skating and celebrating the holidays. Nonetheless, there are also individuals that dread the fall and winter seasons. Perhaps those individuals who dislike fall and winter simply hate the cold, or the hassle and bustle of the Christmas season. However, some people dread the fall and winter because of something call seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes as the season’s change, with symptoms generally worsening in the winter.

            Research has demonstrated that approximately 3% of adults in temperate climates experience SAD, and is associated with latitude, sex and genetic adaption. In particular, SAD is much more prevalent in women compared to men, which means women are more vulnerable to developing SAD.  Furthermore, SAD is also associated to a variety of mental illnesses, which include bipolar disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and postpartum depression (PPD).

            A study conducted in 2009 found that women suffering from PPD experienced more severe symptoms of depression during the autumn and winter. In addition, another study found that there is no significant relationship between season of birth and PPD. More research in needed to understand the link between seasonality and PPD, as this link could determine type of treatment and pregnancy planning. 

            Presently the recommended treatments for individuals experiencing SAD include…


·      Alternatives

o   The hormone melatonin is an especially promising possibility for re-regulating the biological clock that gets out of synch with SAD. Omega- oils, found in fish seem to help in the treatment of SAD and other types of depression aw well.

·      Diet

o   People with SAD report carbohydrate cravings, weight gain and energy loss. Changes in diet may help with all of these problems.

·      Light Therapy

o   Light therapy was designed to help treat SAD specifically and involves exposure to intensely bright light for a period of 30 or minutes each day. Most people with SAD can expect improvement with light therapy within a couple of weeks, sometimes sooner.

·      Medication

o   Anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed

·      Increase activity

o   Mastery

§  Activities that give you a sense of accomplishment such as washing the dishes, balancing a checkbook, cleaning out a closet

o   Pleasure

§  These activities are for the sole purpose of experiencing enjoyment for example, watching a movie, talking a walk or visiting friends.            


Jewell, J., Dunn, A., Bondy, J., & Leiferman, J. (2010). Prevalence of self-reported postpartum depression specific to season and latitude of birth: evaluating the PRAMS data. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 14(2), 261-267. doi:10.1007/s10995-009-0498-6

Corral, M. M., Wardrop, A. A., & Zhang, H. B. (2007). Seasonality of symptoms in women with postpartum depression. Archives Of Women's Mental Health, 10(1), 9-13. doi:10.1007/s00737-006-0160-x