It's wintertime. There is cold weather and decreasing sunshine. For most people, it is just another season, some enjoy the cold weather and the activities that accompany it. Some muddle through, holding on and waiting for the warm weather to once again return. But for others, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) makes the winter season a struggle to make it through the long winter. SAD can also occur during the summer, however, this is much less common.
Women are diagnosed with SAD more often than men and, not surprisingly, there are more diagnoses of SAD further north, where colder weather begins earlier in the year and ends later. Younger people (but over the age of 20) are also more often diagnosed with SAD than their older counterparts.
Familydoctor.org lists the symptoms of SAD as:
- Change in appetite
- Weight gain
- Fatigue or feelings of less energy
- Increase in oversleeping
- Concentration difficulties
- Irritability or anxiety
- Avoiding social situations, loss of interest in activities, higher sensitivity to social rejection
Treatment for SAD usually includes light therapy. For people with mild SAD, using brighter lights and spending additional time outdoors, during the daylight, may be enough to help alleviate symptoms. For those where symptoms of SAD interfere with daily activities, light therapy using special lighting may be necessary. Full spectrum lights are used, and depending on the severity of the symptoms, can be used for as little as 20 minutes a day to several hours per day.
In addition to special lighting, more traditional treatment methods for depression, such as medication and therapy can be used.
If you believe you suffer from SAD, consult with a mental health professional. He or she will be able to determine if it is a correct diagnosis and help you plan a treatment plan.