Seasonal Affective Disorder Test

Researchers know the weather and lack of light affect our mood and attitudes. Many people report a gradual sense of feeling down in the winter. The “winter blues” are actually a recognized condition called seasonal affective disorder.

Reportedly, roughly 5% of the population suffers from seasonal depression6. There are many forms of depression. Yet, when people are unwell, seasonal depression is rarely considered the cause.

It is important to understand this disorder. Knowing the symptoms and causes of may help combat its negative feelings.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Winter Self-Test

Curious to see if you may be experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter months? This test may serve you as a valuable assessment.

This test is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it intended to replace a proper diagnosis. Use it only for informational purposes. Mental health conditions should only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Regardless of your results from our assessment, you should speak to a doctor about your mental health.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Summer Self-Test

Curious to see if you may be experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the summer months? This test may serve you as a valuable assessment.

This test is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it intended to replace a proper diagnosis. Use it only for informational purposes. Mental health conditions should only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Regardless of your results from our assessment, you should speak to a doctor about your mental health.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

As a form of depression, seasonal affective disorder is a “major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern.” This means people with this condition experience mood disruptions. Lethargy and sadness are often felt like other forms of depression.

There is a difference between seasonal and major depression. Seasonal depression symptoms get triggered by the fall and winter months often. These symptoms can get even worse when there is less daylight.

It is common for most people to feel like they have less energy during the darker winter months. Seasonal depression causes more profound changes. It affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, and activities.

Causes of Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression most often gets triggered by the colder months. Sometimes people experience it during spring and summer. This less common form is “summer-pattern” season affective disorder.

A biochemical imbalance in the brain causes negative symptoms of this disorder. Scientists know that less daylight triggers biological shifts within our bodies. Our circadian rhythm is our internal clock and is responsible for regulating hormones12.

These hormones control the sleep cycle and other biological processes. These include metabolic processes that control the body’s energy balance. Depression sometimes occurs when the circadian rhythm becomes disrupted and cannot correct itself.

Research is unclear to all the causes of this depression. But, there is helpful seasonal affective disorder treatment. Psychologists and researchers report 10% of depression diagnoses are seasonal affective disorder4.

People in northern areas are more prone to experiencing seasonal depression than others.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Clinical depression shows up as an underlying state of being. While a recurrent pattern characterizes seasonal depression. It shows up for roughly four to five months of the year.

The symptoms include those found in major depression. Some symptoms are more commonly found in winter seasonal depression. Others only show up in summer-pattern depression10.

  • The common symptoms of seasonal depression include:
  • Feeling sad and depressed for most of the day, every day
  • No interest in activities that used to bring joy or enthusiasm
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleep cycle disrupt, either too much or too lite
  • Feeling irritable, agitated, or “on edge”
  • Feeling worthless, apathetic, or hopeless
  • Low energy or sluggish
  • Thoughts of self-harm

Common Winter-Pattern Symptoms

Symptoms that are common in fall and winter seasonal affective disorder include hypersomnia2. Hypersomnia occurs when a person oversleeps during daylight hours. A person with SAD that occurs in the winter may experience trouble staying awake.

Usually, a person with hypersomnia also has low energy and unclear thoughts.

Cravings for carbohydrates are also common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Carbs give the body a form of instant energy, so when the overall system feels taxed the body craves them. Carbs also stimulate “feel-good” hormones, anther reason why they get craved during depression5.

Weight gain is a side effect of the combination of carbohydrate cravings and lack of energy. The body stores unused carbohydrate energy as fat to use at a later time.

Seasonal depression causes a person to feel lethargic. This may cause them to neglect their physical exercise often. Eating sweet foods, sleeping more, and not exercising can make depression symptoms worse.

Feeling lethargic also causes withdrawal from social settings. This is a circular effect. As people become more isolated they often feel more depressed.

Common Summer-Pattern Symptoms

People diagnosed with summer-pattern seasonal depression also usually experience sleep disruption. This symptom usually appears as insomnia rather than oversleeping. Restlessness and feelings of agitation are also common.

Other symptoms of this disorder include a poor appetite which can lead to weight loss. People with SAD in the summer months can also experience a heightened state of anxiety.

There is evidence that violent episodes are more likely to occur in this form of depression13. Research shows this may affect people living with bipolar disorder more frequently.

Different Than Clinical Depression

While these are similarities, clinical depression is different than seasonal. Clinical depression isn’t triggered by daylight changes. It is persistent throughout the year.

Seasonal affective disorder shows up in almost predictable patterns based on the seasons. The criteria for seasonal depression does not mean feelings of sadness in winter. It must present during specific times of the year.

Often there are events in a person’s life that trigger depressive episodes.

These may include stressful winter holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holidays increase thoughts about relationships with friends and family. This may increase stressful feelings.

Just because an event triggers a fall or winter reoccurring depressive episode, does not make it seasonal depression1. Some depressive symptoms occur as situational or temporary depression.

Risk Factors for Seasonal Depression

This form of depression is more common in younger people and those who live in colder climates. Summer-pattern depression is more common for those who live closer to the equator. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder than men3.

Research suggests a higher risk for seasonal depression in people who also have a mood disorder diagnosis. This includes major depression or bipolar disorder.

A family history that includes seasonal depression or other forms of depression can increase the risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Evidence shows low levels of vitamin D increase the risk for seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D is produced in the body when it is exposed to UV rays and can increase serotonin levels7. Serotonin influences energy levels and the experience of happiness.

Low vitamin D levels are common in North America with the wide use of sunscreen. Even the lowest SPF levels block vitamin D production. Boosting vitamin D production by supplementing through diet may help when using sunscreen.

How is Seasonal Depression Diagnosed?

It is important to reach out for professional help if symptoms of any form of depression are present. A healthcare provider will recommend or refer you to a mental health specialist. D’Amore Mental Health offers reliable and user-friendly self-assessment tests.

Questionnaires provide information for diagnosis. Trained experts in the field of mental disorders create the questionnaires. They consult the patient about their emotional and physical symptoms. There are a few criteria needed to receive a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder.

  • These 3 criteria need to be met to receive a Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosis:
  • Symptoms of major depression – including the symptoms above plus disrupted sleep, a change of mood, feelings of apathy or lethargy are common
  • Depression must coincide with specific season – can affect a person in fall and winter, or spring and summer. Seasonal affective disorder does not have to occur yearly for a diagnosis.
  • Depressive episode happens frequently during the season – The specific season links the depressive feelings as ‘seasonal’ rather than sadness through the rest of the year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment

Mental health treatments are vast. There are many options. Personalized treatment suits an individual’s interests, personality type, and diagnosis needs.

Treatment for seasonal affective disorder is different from other mood disorders. This is because it is dependent on daylight levels and the seasons.

Light therapy is the most popular and effective treatment. This treatment uses a specialized lamp that mimics sunlight. Evidence shows this light triggers the positive effects within the body that are lacking due to low light levels.

A treatment lightbox must provide at least 10,000 lux of light9. It also needs to emit as little UV light as possible to avoid harmful rays. Specialists recommend using the lightbox when first waking up in the morning for 20 minutes.

Afternoon or evening use of the lightbox might cause insomnia. People with diabetes or eye issues should consult with their health practitioner before using a lightbox. As well as people with bipolar disorder since increased light may trigger manic episodes.

A medical specialist might feel seasonal affective disorder is best treated with medication. An anti-depressant works by regulating the serotonin levels within the body. As stated before, light levels and vitamin D intake affect serotonin.

Therapy Treatments

Cognitive-behavioral therapy shows promising signs for treatment. Sometimes people refer to this treatment as talk therapy. While research shows light therapy provides benefits, it does not work for everyone.

Behavior therapy works by discovering negative thought patterns and actions. Once these patterns are recognized, a therapist helps change the negative cycle. This treats the depressive symptoms.
Working with a professional also helps keep the patient accountable to their treatment. This includes scheduling physical activities and creating a plan that works best for them.

Combing behavior therapy with other treatments is common. Using medication, diet changes, and light therapy may offer new solutions.

Prevention of Seasonal Depression

Preventing the first episode of seasonal affective disorder is unlikely. But, once given a diagnosis, applying preventative measures is helpful. There are preventative steps that may lessen the symptoms.

  • Physical activity – Establishing a regular fitness routine can help prevent inactivity from taking place. Physical activity can also help maintain consistent hormone levels.
  • Stay social by reaching out to friends – Let trusted people know that seasonal depression is expected. This is a way to ask for help before the feelings of sadness and despair set in.
  • Spend time outdoors – Regardless of the weather, daylight can make people feel better. Combining daily movement with outside time is a great way to ensure both needs get met.
  • Take time outside without sunglasses or contact lenses8 – The body is usually covered in clothes to say warm in the colder months so it does not have the opportunity to produce vitamin D through the skin. Vitamin D can be produced by absorbing light through the eyes but only without glasses.
  • Supplement with vitamin D – Some studies show that vitamin D improves depressive symptoms similar to anti-depressant medication11. A blood test from a medical practitioner shows exactly how much vitamin D is in your system.


  1. Abramson, A. (2019, October 12). Here’s what makes seasonal affective disorder different from depression. Allure. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  2. Ambardekar, N. (2021, August 14). Hypersomnia (excessive tiredness) causes, treatments. WebMD. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  3. Cleveland Clinic Medical Staff. (2020). Seasonal Depression (SAD): Symptoms & treatments. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  4. CMHA. (2013). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  5. Davis, A. (2021, November 4). Why does seasonal affective disorder (SAD) make us crave carbs? Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  6. Flick, G. R. (2019, October 31). Seasonal affective disorder impacts 10 million Americans. are you one of them? Boston University. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  7. Knaebel, A. (2018, December 27). Can taking vitamin D help boost serotonin levels? Healthy Eating | SF Gate. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  8. Maffetone, P. (2020, May 15). Sunlight: Good for the eyes as well as the brain. Dr. Phil Maffetone. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, March 16). Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  10. Nai, D. (2019, June 25). It turns out you really can get that summertime sadness. Healthline. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  11. Parch, L. A., Métraux, J., Patel, R. B., Upham, B., Pugle, M., Vaughn, L., Migala, J., Marks, J., Hurley, K., & Clayton, J. D. (2020, June 22). Vitamin D and depression. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  12. Serin, Y., & Acar Tek, N. (2019, April 23). Effect of circadian rhythm on metabolic processes and the regulation of Energy Balance. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
  13. Tiret, H. (2022, January 21). Know the signs of SAD. MSU Extension. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
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