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Feel a bit sad this time every year? You’re not alone. Roughly 10 to 20 percent of Americans report feeling tired or sad in the winter months, and studies show seasonal affective disorder is four times more common in women than men. First described in the 1980’s, seasonal depression is characterized by recurrent depression that occurs annually at the same time each year. Medical research hasn’t discovered one particular cause of these “winter blues,” also known as "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD). With that said, researchers agree people who suffer from it have one thing in common, they're particularly sensitive to light, or the lack of it. Some other factors that may come into play include:
Warning Signs and Symptoms:
How to Treat It:
Many studies have shown that people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light. Bright light – generated by a special light box that's much brighter than a normal lamp – is proven to work and gives off light that mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms.
Avoid “cabin fever.” Spend some time outside every day, even when it's cloudy or cold and especially in the morning light. The effects of daylight and fresh air can still help.
Develop Wintertime Hobbies and Interests
Discover something that you start to look forward to each year during winter. Whether it’s joining a winter book club or treating yourself to a new weekly puzzle or movie release, keeping your body and your brain active and optimistic goes a long way in preventing depression from getting worse.
If you feel depressed, fatigued and irritable the same time each year, and these feelings seem to be seasonal in nature, you may have a form of SAD. Talk openly with your doctor about your feelings. Please contact ACCESS, and we can help you locate support groups, physicians and behavioral health consultants who can give you the added support you need.