Seasonal Affective Disorder and Vitamin D
Christine Schulz-Counseling Intern
November 2009

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? What are itssymptoms? How does it affect the way people function at home, at work and in their relationships? How is it treated? And what is the importance of Vitamin D?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type ofdepression that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy, psychotherapy, vitamin D and medication.

SAD Criteria

  • Loss of energy
  • Decrease in productivity and creativity
  • Feeling down or depressed
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Less appetite control such as craving sugar or carbohydrates
  • Symptoms of depression in fall and winter months

Wondering about any of these symptoms? Check with Counseling Services or Health Services.

Vitamin D:
A widespread misconception is that the sun's rays are harmful, damaging and should be avoided, however, sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D, known to be common in winter, may contribute to seasonal affective disorder. Renee Wenzlaff, one of MSOE's nurse practitioners, recommends a dose of 2000-4000 IU from September until April of Vitamin D when there is less sunlight.

Benefits of Vitamin D:

  • Prevention of many types of cancer
  • Protection against autoimmune diseases
  • Protection against diabetes and obesity
  • Protection against cardiovascular disease
  • Needed for bone health
  • Decreases muscle and jointpain
  • Required for calcium absorption and metabolism
  • Protects against neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease
  • Facilitates memory andcognition
  • Helps prevent depression ,seasonal affective disorder and fatigue


Light Therapy:
Light therapy works by correcting the timing of daily circadian rhythms and light therapy is more effective if administered in the morning. Light therapy works by influencing neurotransmitters that are extremely important in mediating a number of brain functions. Light therapy improves the functioning of hormones involved in the responses to stress. Light is thought to influence parts of the brain responsible for regulating many of the functions that are disturbed in SAD, such as eating, sleeping, and mood. Light therapy also acts through the skin. It is possible that the UV rays in sunlight, acting on the skin, may result in mood improvement through Vitamin D production. In addition to light therapy, it may be helpful to wake up early and take a twenty minute walk in the sunlight to still get some of the same benefits that a light box provides.

For more information check out these helpful resources:


*Remember MSOE Counseling Services is here to help you!! Set up an appointment to try out the light therapy lamp which has proved effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Call 277-7590.