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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): What to Know

Written by Miranda Owen 

Miranda Owen is one of NAMI Wake’s work study students, helping us as a social media technician and blog contributor. This month, we’ll be focusing our content on SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that appears in individuals usually beginning in fall and lasting through the cold months. Most people who experience SAD have less energy or are more moody during the fall and winter. Scientists believe that SAD is caused by a biochemical change in the brain brought on by the shorter days in winter, where reduced sunlight means individuals get less serotonin and melatonin, which can contribute to SAD. 

Symptoms of SAD 

Seasonal Affective Disorder usually appears in symptoms including depressed mood, lessened energy, increased sleep, anxiety, irritability, sluggishness or agitation, difficulty concentrating, and changes in appetite. Symptoms may start as mild and worsen over time. Individuals who feel unmotivated or down for days on end should talk to their doctor about these symptoms, especially if they are experiencing other symptoms or if the changes cause disruption in their daily life. 

Who is most likely to be affected? 

Studies show that up to 20% of individuals in the United States may be affected by a mild form of SAD. Females are four times more likely to experience symptoms of SAD than males. SAD is also more likely to affect individuals 18 to 30 years old. People with a family history of SAD may also be more likely to experience the condition as well. 


A variety of resources exist online for people who experience SAD. If you are looking for local support, NAMI Wake offers free virtual support groups which can help you meet and discuss with people like you, and we also offer monthly education events with varying topics regarding mental illness. We also promote available self-care classes like yoga, meditation, and more in our area. You can find out more about NAMI Wake’s programs and services here. You may also be able to find more virtual support groups or educational events relating to SAD by looking at Meetup. If you’re looking for people who share your experience through a less formal setting, check out this Seasonal Affective Disorder Facebook group which has over 7,000 members and is described as a “support group” for people who experience SAD. 

Sources: NAMI, Mayo Clinic, Psychology Today

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