How to Identify and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If you’ve been feeling moody, sluggish, and out of sorts for the past few weeks, it’s not necessarily a simple case of the winter blues. You may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression related to the changes in the seasons. SAD is commonly referred to as “winter depression” and typically starts in late fall and continues through winter.
MedicineNet.com reveals that studies show SAD is about “four times more common in women than men” and that 23 is the average age for when people first develop the illness. Here are the symptoms and recommend ways to treat seasonal affective disorder.
According to The Mayo Clinic, common SAD symptoms, include:
- Irritability and tiredness
- Changes in appetite, especially cravings for carbohydrate-laden foods
- Weight gain
- Trouble with interpersonal relationships
- Heavy, lead-like feeling in arms and legs
Light therapy is a common, effective treatment for SAD. Dr. Linda Pourmassina, an internal-medicine physician at The Polyclinic in Seattle, says: “Mild SAD can improve significantly with light therapy, which involves sitting for a specified period of time about two feet from a light box that emits 2,500-10,000 lux of light at eye level.” She recommends discussing your symptoms and medical history with your doctor to determine if light therapy is right for you.
If your doctor thinks you’ll benefit from using a light box, check out the Mayo Clinic’s overview of what to consider before you make your light box purchase. A great option is the Lightphoria 10,000LUX Energy Light Lamp which is less than $70 and is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon.com.
People with more serious cases of SAD often benefit from taking an antidepressant or engaging in psychotherapy to learn helpful coping strategies. If you or a family member is having symptoms consistent with SAD, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Even if you don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Pourmassina has some great recommendations for ways to improve your energy and mood during the often dreary winter months:
- Schedule social activities with friends and family so you have something to look forward to and a reason to get out the house
- Avoid carbohydrate rich comfort foods, which can spike your blood sugar negatively impacting your mood and energy levels
- Bundle up and take regular walks outside to get fresh air and sunshine
For information about SAD, visit The Mayo Clinic website.
Clarissa Fidler is a 20-something trying to find her place in this world. She grew up in Seattle, attended college in Utah, and recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest after spending the last few years in Chicago obtaining her master’s degree in journalism. Clarissa spends her days working as a higher education professional helping graduate students pursue their passions. In her free time you’ll find her reading the New York Times, cuddling with her cat Harper, catching up on her favorite blogs, enjoying the outdoors, or checking out a new restaurant. If you’d like to read more by Clarissa, check out her blog West Hawthorne Place.
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