What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears at the same time each year. With SAD, a person typically has symptoms of depression and unexplained fatigue as winter approaches and daylight hours become shorter. When spring returns and days become longer again, people with SAD experience relief from their symptoms, returning to their usual mood and energy level. Experts believe that, with SAD, depression is somehow triggered by the brain's response to decreased daylight exposure. No one really understands how and why this happens. What Are the Symptoms of SAD? Someone with SAD will show several particular changes from the way he or she normally feels and acts. These changes occur in a predictable seasonal pattern. The symptoms of SAD are the same as symptoms of depression, and a person with SAD may notice several or all of these symptoms: Changes in mood. A person may feel sad or be in an irritable mood most of the time for at least 2 weeks during a specific time of year. During that time, a guy or girl may feel a sense of hopelessness or worthlessness. As part of the mood change that goes with SAD, people can be self-critical; they may also be more sensitive than usual to criticism and cry or get upset more often or more easily. Lack of enjoyment. Someone with SAD may lose interest in things he or she normally likes to do and may seem unable to enjoy things as before. People with SAD can also feel like they no longer do certain tasks as well as they used to, and they may have feelings of dissatisfaction or guilt. A person with SAD may seem to lose interest in friends and may stop participating in social activities. Low energy. Unusual tiredness or unexplained fatigue is also part of SAD and can cause people to feel low on energy. Changes in sleep. A person may sleep much more than usual. Excessive sleeping can make it impossible for a student to get up and get ready for school in the morning. Changes in eating. Changes in eating and appetite related to SAD may include cravings for simple carbohydrates (think comfort foods and sugary foods) and the tendency to overeat. Because of this change in eating, SAD can result in weight gain during the winter months. Difficulty concentrating. SAD can affect concentration, too, interfering with a person's school performance and grades. A student may have more trouble than usual completing assignments on time or seem to lack his or her usual motivation. Someone with SAD may notice that his or her grades may drop, and teachers may comment that the student seems less motivated or is making less effort in school. Less time socializing. People with SAD may spend less time with friends, in social activities, or in extracurricular activities. The problems caused by SAD, such as lower-than-usual grades or less energy for socializing with friends, can affect self-esteem and leave a person feeling disappointed, isolated, and lonely — especially if he or she doesn't realize what's causing the changes in energy, mood, and motivation. ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Like other forms of depression, the symptoms of SAD can be mild, severe, or anywhere in between. Milder symptoms interfere less with someone's ability to participate in everyday activities, but stronger symptoms can interfere much more. It's the seasonal pattern of SAD — the fact that symptoms occur only for a few months each winter (for at least 2 years in a row) but not during other seasons — that distinguishes SAD from other forms of depression. Your school Student Services Office is here to help! If you are concerned that your child might have Seasonal Affective Disorder, please reach out to your child’s school social worker for support and resources! Information taken from Kidshealth.org and prepared by your school social worker.