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Got the winter blues?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is most commonly associated with the fall and winter seasons. It is a type of mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.

While it usually begins in adulthood, it can also develop during a person’s teen years. Women are more likely to experience SAD than men. While there is no test for it, a doctor can make the diagnosis based on the symptoms. A physical exam and blood work are needed to rule out other disorders before a doctor can give their diagnosis.

Though SAD symptoms are similar to other forms of depression, the following are some of the most common found in patients with SAD.

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Oversleeping
  • Decreased energy and concentration
  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Loss of interest in work and/or other activities
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Loved ones may also notice the following symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability

There are many ways to help manage this form of depression. Psychotherapy, light therapy (phototherapy), and taking prescribed medications properly are some of the treatments used. Lifestyle changes that can help alleviate symptoms include getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing stress management, and exercising. While there may be no desire to socialize, making an effort to keep contact with close friends and family can provide an outlet and/or support needed. Alcohol and illegal drugs can aggravate symptoms so it’s best to avoid them.

Environmental changes can also help keep symptoms down. Opening blinds and removing obstructions (such as tree branches) that prevent the sunlight from entering the room are good starts. Spending time outside by taking long walks or having a picnic at a nearby park are also known to help. Even if the day is cold and/or cloudy, the little bit of outdoor light can help lessen symptoms. For best results, get outdoors within two hours of waking up in the morning.

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from SAD please contact our team of healthcare professionals at Horizon Health Services – 716.831.1800.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.