Moment Of Clarity

Suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

We understand.  Sometimes, problems with romantic relationships,  friendships, career or family life get you down. And we want to help. That’s why JET is working with therapist, Jinnie Cristerna, who will take your questions and offer some sage, sanity-restoring advice and insight every Tuesday.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

(Sung to the melody of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”)

You’d better watch out,

You just might cry,

You may start to pout more

and there’s a clinical reason why:

You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder ...

While my choice of tunes may be somewhat lame, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is very real at this is the time of year and many people will begin to experience symptoms soon. In fact, 10 million people will begin to experience SAD right about … NOW.


Seasonal Affective Disorder is a specific type of depression that happens at the same time every year – usually during the fall and winter seasons. The most telling sign that someone may have SAD is that symptoms go away or are greatly reduced during the spring and summer.


People with SAD often feel more tired (even drained), sad, and moodier than before. Some people even put on more weight because they eat more, become anxious, sleep more often, or lose interest in activities that are usually fun during the fall and winter.

Remember these symptoms are increased or begin to appear during the same time every year – again, the fall and winter – and go away in the spring.


While there is still some debate regarding what causes SAD, it is generally agreed that sunlight is a factor.  Some people need sunlight more than others and during the winter months, there is usually less sunlight during the day. Because of the lack of sunlight, the sleep-wake cycle gets thrown off and can cause the brain chemical serotonin to be thrown off.  Serotonin is the chemical our brains produce that affects our mood; so when our serotonin levels are low, we can feel moodier, sad, and more anxious than usual.

In places such as Chicago, New York, Alaska, and other northern regions where the daylight is shortened, SAD can be overwhelming for many of its residents.


Because it can be difficult to differentiate between the “typical” depression that occurs all year round from SAD, only a licensed clinical therapist or physician can diagnose you with the disorder. What we often look for is:

– Depression that has lasted for at least two years and has gotten better when the weather/seasons changed;

– Food cravings (usually carbs), weight gain, and excessive sleeping or tiredness;

– Family history of SAD (typically immediate family).


Yes. Most doctors prescribe light therapy which has an 80 percent success rate. Light therapy is basically sitting in front of a light box in the morning for 30 minutes every day. Patients report feeling better in about a week when they use it every day. The key is to continue using it every day in addition to taking any medications prescribed, and seeing a therapist or the depression will come back.

For some patients, the light box is not enough, especially when they are struggling with non-seasonal depression such as clinical depression or dysthymia. Because the excessive heaviness can be overwhelming, some people may move to parts of the country (or world) where there is not much change in temperature and daylight such as Florida, Southern California, etc.


Mayo Clinic

Web MD

PubMed Health

I hope you’ve found this helpful. The season of SAD is upon us, so make sure you pass this on to loved ones.  If you’d like, you can also download the audio version of this blog here!

Pleasant journeys!


Do you have a question for Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. You can also learn more about our “Moment of Clarity” JET therapist via:

Her site at International High Achievers.

Twitter: @intlachievers

Facebook: Like Jinnie’s Page!

You can also subscribe to her High Achievers email list here!