Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Fall and winter months filled with holidays and family festivities should be a time of happiness and celebration. For some, this time of year signals the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that begins with a change in seasons. SAD is caused in part by a reduction in natural sunlight which leads to lower levels of serotonin in the brain.

The most common SAD symptoms are:

  • Increased sleep
  • Increased appetite with carbohydrate craving
  • Increased weight
  • Irritability
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Leaden paralysis (heavy, leaden feelings in arms or legs)

In cases of mild SAD, light therapy is often the first line treatment. As the severity of symptoms increase, medications may be considered along with psychotherapy.

Always consult your physician before initiating any form of therapy. If you have a tendency to feel a bit down during the winter months, these simple steps combined with any prescribed therapy may help:

  • Schedule social activities throughout the season
  • Vacation to a sunny location
  • Avoid foods high in carbohydrates
  • Spend time outside during the day as much as possible
  • Use a timer to set your lamp to turn on before the sun comes up
  • If you ever feel suicidal, call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE

If you are dreading the winter months and think you may be suffering from SAD, see your doctor. It’s time to move past dreading the season to enjoying it with friends and loved ones.

– Daerin Park, Pharm. D

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