The onslaught of fall brings a handful of upsides. Instagram-friendly foliage, the overly hyped PSL (sorry, not sorry) and a closer proximity to the holidays. But as summer bids us a bitter farewell, it can also bring on a kind of depression. And we don’t mean that in the “no more summer Fridays” kind of way. Sometimes the shift in seasons can cause Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD for short).

Natasha Bhuyan, MD at One Medical explains, “It’s a type of depression that follows a pattern. People mostly get it in the late fall through winter and feel better in summer months. Then it returns again the following year. A lot of times it’s confused with traditional depression.”

Traveler with backpack walking in mountains at sunset

SAD was only recognized as a disorder in 1984. It’s often confused for traditional depression because they have most of the same symptoms: not feeling interested in what you used to be interested in, tiredness, difficulty getting out of bed, etc. But SAD’s differentiation comes in its repeat offense. If you can recall something similar happening for the last couple of years, that’s usually a good indication. It can also be a genetic thing, so look into your family history.

Bhuyan explains that the cause still isn’t entirely clear. “Doctors don’t really know exactly what the cause is, but they think it’s light-related. People who live further from the equator are more prone to SAD, whereas people who are living in sunny areas don’t see as many cases. It could also be connected to the circadian rhythm when it gets lighter earlier. It causes you to make more melatonin, which causes drowsiness.”

Young woman administering a light therapy agains winter depression

The cure? Simple. More light. While traditional depression is often treated with medication, Bhuyan explains that in most cases this can be treated at home with light therapy. Bhuyan advises patients diagnosed with SAD or concerned they might have it start spending some quality time with a light box. “Sit in front of a light box [a fluorescent one works] with your eyes open; don’t look into the light,” she says. “Start with 10 minutes a day and then move into 45. Eighty-five percent of the time it works.”

It helps that light boxes can easily be found online. One Target customer gave this HappyLight a glowing review. She writes, “By the third day of use, I could feel a real difference. For you, it may take longer to feel results, or you may need more light […] To sum it all up…in the ongoing fight against depression, I’m a long-time veteran, and I LIKE this product!”

Sometimes it’s as simple as that, and other times it can require more attention. But if you find yourself feeling down as the leaves fall, it might be worth looking into. “So many people just write it off as winter blues,” Bhuyan says. “But the problem is, it doesn’t get better, so we want people to reach out to their doctor.”

Have you ever experience SAD? Share your story with us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)