Seasonal Affective Disorder | Department of Psychological Science | The University of Vermont(title)

The Winter Blues

In the winter do you:

  • want to hibernate?
  • feel fatigued and down?
  • change your sleeping and eating habits?
  • feel sad or blue?
  • lose interest in things?

It's not all in your head. Our team led by Dr. Kelly Rohan offers help for this seasonal disorder.

Treatment for SAD

Light Therapy

We strongly recommend against self-diagnosis and self-treatment.  Instead, you are encouraged to seek evaluation by a qualified professional for the problem you are experiencing. If you decide to pursue light therapy, it is strongly recommended that you do so under the supervision of a qualified professional because of the possibility of side effects and because light therapy can affect your sleep.

Bright Light therapy has been an effective treatment for many people. A light box device has been designed specifically for use in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although many different products are available, we recommend that you purchase a standard-size (as opposed to a smaller desk unit) light box that gives off 10,000-lux of cool white fluorescent or full spectrum light with a built-in screen to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.  Light therapy units with these qualities are the most widely tested in clinical trials for SAD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective, non-drug treatment for depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a tried-and-true treatment for depression. Our preliminary studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a promising new treatment for SAD.

Based on 3 decades of research, all of the following statements are true of cognitive-behavioral therapy:

• Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been effective in treating community volunteers, adult outpatients, and elderly people with depression.
• Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been effective in treating both mild and more severe depression.
• Most comparisons have shown cognitive-behavioral therapy to be as effective as medications in treating depression.
• Cognitive-behavioral therapy has no physical side effects.
• Cognitive-behavioral therapy may prevent or help delay relapse (or return) of depressive symptoms in the future better than other forms of treatment for depression.
• Preliminary studies in our group suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy may be as effective as light therapy in treating SAD.

Facts about SAD
  • SAD was discovered before 1845, but was not officially named until the early 1980’s.
  • Over 100 articles have been written on the subject since-1999.
  • As many as 6 of every 100 people in the United States may have SAD.
  • Sad is more common in northern geographic regions, like New England.
  • SAD is more common in women than in men.
  • The most difficult months for SAD sufferers are January and February.
  • SAD symptoms can include the following: fatigue, weight and appetite changes, oversleeping, loss of interest in hobbies and social activities, difficulty concentrating, and low mood.
  • Light therapy has been very effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of SAD.
SAD Study Contact Info

University of Vermont
Department of Psychology
2 Colchester Avenue
Burlington, Vermont 05405
Telephone: 802-656-9890