Have you noticed your mood being impacted by changing seasons? Dreary winter days can mean the same for your mood. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects many people and can have a profound impact on your feelings and wellbeing. SAD is a real type of depression characterized by its timing, most often beginning in the fall or winter. For some, it may also occur when spring or summer begins. Circadian rhythm may be impacted by reduced sunlight, upsetting your internal clock and bringing on symptoms. Serotonin and melatonin levels may also play into the onset and severity of SAD. The same reduction of sunlight that disrupts your Circadian rhythm can also cause serotonin levels to fall. This triggers depression for SAD sufferers as well as those with other conditions. Melatonin plays a role in sleep cycles, and sleep is responsible for a good portion of what causes and regulates mood. The changing seasons may disrupt the body’s natural levels of melatonin.

Not everyone experiences a change in mood as the seasons change, and this is due to a number of risk factors. Genetics do play a role in SAD. If a blood relative has gone through SAD or another form of depression, the chances of developing symptoms is higher. Having major depression, bipolar disorder, or another related condition yourself will make SAD a more likely occurrence. Factors other than your health can impact the likelihood and severity of seasonal affective disorder, like living far from the equator. A decrease in winter sun and increase in summer day length may be responsible.

Only a medical professional can make a diagnosis, but learning about what to look out for can be helpful. It gives you a place to start if you feel you may be suffering from SAD.