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Is being SAD for weeks normal?

What is SAD?

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.

The main cause of SAD is believed to be lack of exposure to sunlight during shorter autumn and winter days. The lack of sunlight disrupts your body’s internal clock and leads to feelings of depression.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

– Low mood
– Losing interest in activities you normally enjoy
– Feeling sluggish and drained of energy
– Sleeping more than normal
– Finding it hard to get up in the mornings
– Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
– Difficulty concentrating
– Withdrawing from social situations

The symptoms are similar to general depression but occur in a seasonal pattern. For people with SAD, the symptoms start in the fall every year as the days get shorter. They tend to worsen in the winter months and ease as spring returns.

Who is affected by SAD?

SAD is estimated to affect around 5% of adults in the US. It’s more common in:

– Women
– People living far north or south of the equator
– People between ages 15-55
– People with a family history of depression or SAD

The further you live from the equator, the higher your risk of SAD because winter days are shorter with less sunlight. For example, Alaska has a very high rate of SAD compared to Florida.

Is it normal to feel SAD for weeks?

It can be normal to experience SAD symptoms for weeks or months during the fall and winter if you have seasonal pattern depression. However, there are a few important things to note:


Most people with SAD have symptoms starting in September/October, worsening through November/December, peaking in January/February, and easing in March/April. So SAD usually follows this seasonal time frame.

If your low mood or other symptoms are persisting for many months outside of the expected SAD timeline, that could indicate another type of depression rather than SAD.


SAD ranges from mild to severe. Mild SAD may cause sadness and low energy but doesn’t interfere too much with your work and relationships. Severe SAD prevents you from functioning normally.

If your symptoms are so severe that they’re deeply impacting your daily life for weeks on end, that level of severity may not be normal and you should see your doctor.

Recurring pattern

For most people with SAD, the symptoms follow a consistent seasonal pattern year after year. It’s considered normal if you experience SAD symptoms at around the same time each winter.

If this is the first time you’ve experienced long-lasting depression symptoms during the fall/winter months, it may not be SAD.

When to seek help

You should make an appointment with your doctor if:

– Your symptoms don’t follow a seasonal pattern and persist for most of the year
– Your symptoms are getting more severe each winter season
– Your symptoms are so severe that your daily functioning is badly impacted
– You struggle with suicidal thoughts

Diagnosing SAD

To diagnose SAD, your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. Tracking your symptoms in a mood journal for at least 2 weeks can help determine if they follow a seasonal pattern.

Your doctor may also do medical tests to rule out other potential causes for your depression.

Treating SAD

Light therapy is usually the first-line treatment for SAD. This involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits very bright light to simulate sunlight. Using the light box daily can significantly improve mood.

Other treatment options include:

– Medication – Antidepressants and sometimes other medications can relieve SAD symptoms.
– Talk therapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for SAD.
– Vitamin D – Supplements may improve mood especially if deficient.
– Exercise and eating healthy – Being active and limiting carbs/sugar intake can help.

Tips for coping with SAD

Here are some self-care tips to help you manage SAD symptoms:

Get as much natural light as you can

– Spend time outside during daylight hours even if it’s cloudy
– Open blinds and curtains at home to let in natural light
– Sit near windows at school or work

Exercise regularly

– Aim for 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week
– Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are great options
– Working out helps relieve depression and boost endorphins

Stick to a sleep schedule

– Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time
– Allow yourself to sleep longer during the winter if needed
– But avoid excessive sleeping as it can make you more lethargic

Manage stress

– Do relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, massages
– Practice breathing exercises
– Talk to a therapist or counselor

Socialize and stay busy

– Make plans with friends and family regularly
– Join a support group for depression or SAD
– Volunteer or work on hobbies to keep yourself busy

Month Symptom Severity
September Mild
October Moderate
November Moderate-Severe
December Severe
January Most Severe
February Very Severe
March Moderate-Severe
April Mild-Moderate

This table shows the typical progression of SAD symptoms throughout the fall and winter months for a person with seasonal pattern depression. Symptoms start out mild in September and become more severe through November, December and January. February is usually the peak of symptom severity. Then symptoms start improving in March and April.


It can be normal to feel “down” and have low motivation or energy for weeks at a time during late fall and winter if you have SAD. But severe, long-lasting, or atypical symptoms may indicate another form of depression. See your doctor to get properly diagnosed and treated. Using light therapy, medication, therapy and self-care can help manage SAD.