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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Just as it seems to do each year, winter is at our door. For some this is an exciting time, involving all of the holidays with loved ones, warm nights snuggled by the fire and cool afternoons. However, for up to eight million Americans who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, this time of the year can be very difficult.
SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression and related to seasonal variations of light. Brought on by the shorter days and longer nights, symptoms disappear completely in the spring. These symptoms are:

  • Sleep Problems-Desire to oversleep, disturbed sleep or difficult staying awake
  • Lethargy- A feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routines
  • Overeating-Craving sugary or starchy foods
  • Social Problems- Irritability and desire to avoid social situations
  • Anxiety-Tension and inability to tolerate stress
  • Loss of Libido-Decreased interest in sex or physical contact
  • Mood changes-Extremes in mood and/or short periods of hypomania

These symptoms can significantly disrupt one's life. Yet those who experience SAD do not have to suffer through the winter. There are many options to help them feel better, such as:
  • Phototherapy-Or it could be called bright light therapy, has shown to suppress the brain's production of melatonin, a chemical linked to SAD. The device most commonly used is called a "light box." There are also a variety of light bulbs available that offer the same benefit, though their effects are milder and not scientifically proven. Typically, people need to use bright light therapy for about 30 minutes each day throughout the fall and winter.
  • Increasing exposure to light.-A half hour walk outside equates to two and a half hours of bright light therapy. Opening blinds and curtains to allow more light into your office and home is another way to increase natural light.

If light therapies do not work, people can work with their health care provide to identify other alternatives, such as antidepressant medications and therapy. However, these options can take over a month to show benefits and may come with unwanted side effects. Regardless of which treatment a person determines to work best, relief is possible. For more information or to find help, visit The road to feeling better starts here.

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