Heading into fall and winter it is common to experience changes in mood as the weather changes and sunlight becomes more scarce. According to Mental Health America about 5% of the country’s population suffers for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder triggered by change in seasons, usually starting in the fall. This percentage can range higher depending on which part of the country you live in, typically getting worse the further you are from the equator. 

Some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are increased drowsiness, depression, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, social withdrawal, feelings guilt or hopelessness, changes in sleep and/or appetite, decreased sex drive, impairment in focus and concentration and physiological symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches. The reasons for seasonal mood changes may vary, but one common theory is that shortened days and changes in sunlight alter brain chemistry and cause an increase in mood symptoms. A diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder can come from a primary care doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. 

Luckily, there are ways of effectively treating seasonal mood changes if you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms. Some of the most common treatments are:

  • Exposure to natural sunlight: When weather is permitting, being outside in the sun or sitting by a window in natural sunlight for a few minutes a day has been shown to decrease symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Psychotherapy: Talking to a therapist about your triggers and developing coping strategies to mange mood symptoms may also help.
  • Antidepressants: Your doctor or therapist may determine that your symptoms are related to a chemical imbalance and may suggest the use of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). 
  • Exercise and Diet: Regular exercise and diet have been shown to have a positive impact on brain chemistry and can help in the management of mood symptoms.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drugs: Alcohol and other drugs are depressants and can have a negative impact on mood symptoms.

If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, reach out to your doctor or a therapist for treatment.