What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How Is It Treated?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

What is seasonal affective disorder and how is it treated?

Doctor's response

Seasonal affective disorder (also referred to as SAD) is a periodic form of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected persons react adversely to the decreasing amounts of light and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress.

While the treatment of seasonal affective disorder can include medications, recent research has found that regular exposure to bright light, particularly fluorescent light, in the morning and evening significantly improved depression in persons with the condition. This form of treatment is referred to as light therapy.

Seasonal affective disorder has not been recognized very long as a medical condition. The term first appeared in print in 1985. Seasonal affective disorder is also sometimes called winter depression or the hibernation reaction.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

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