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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you have a predictable pattern when seasons change to fall and/or winter?

  1. Do you typically have less energy?
  2. Do you sleep more, but awaken still feeling tired?
  3. Does your mood change (i.e. more anxious, irritable, sad, or depressed)?
  4. Do you feel less productive or creative?
  5. Does your weight or appetite change?
  6. Do you experience memory, motivation, or concentration difficulties?
  7. Does your pattern of going out or socializing change?
  8. Is it more difficult to deal with daily stress?
  9. Is it difficult to feel enthusiastic about the future or is it more difficult to enjoy your life?

If you experience two or more of these patterns for two of more years you may be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is different than major depression in that SAD is a cyclic type of depression that is usually experienced as the amount of day light decreases and temperatures decrease. The exact cause of SAD is still undetermined. However, SAD is believed to be related to changes in: blood levels of the light sensitive hormone melatonin; body temperature; and sleep patterns. The risk of experiencing SAD can be associated with higher latitudes, younger population, and being female. Women comprise 60-90% of persons with SAD.

Suggestions for Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is the difference between SAD and the ''winter blues?'' The winter blues can usually be helped with increased physical activity and increased amounts of light in the living and work environment. SAD sufferers may need more intensive treatment, specifically anti-depressant therapy and phototherapy.

  • Discuss symptoms with your physician or mental health counselor. Anti-depressants can be helpful in treating some people with SAD. Scheduling time to receive light-therapy with a specific light bulb which produces light that impacts the melatonin sensitive hormones can be helpful.
  • Educate yourself, family and close friends regarding SAD to gain their understanding and support.
  • Exercise on a regular basis, preferably outdoors, or if indoors be near a window or bright light.
  • Get as much natural light as possible, which might include: allowing light to shine through your windows and doors; sitting in front of a south facing window for short but frequent periods during the day; rearranging work spaces to be near a window; sitting next to windows in classrooms and restaurants; and, arranging social outings to be outdoors.
  • Install brighter light bulbs.
  • Put your lights on a timer in the bedroom to switch on a hour before awakening or use a dawn simulator.
  • Maintain the same daily pattern of awakening and going to sleep.
  • Dress to conserve energy and warmth.
  • Conserve energy by managing time wisely and avoiding or minimizing stress. Keep life simple.
  • When possible, postpone making life changes until spring or summer.
  • If you are able, arrange a winter vacation to a warm and sunny climate.

If you'd like to talk with a counselor about SAD, please call 218-726-7913 to schedule an appointment.

For more information and support contact: National Organization for Seasonal Affective Disorder (NOSAD), P.O. Box 40133, Washington, D.C. 20016.

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Last modified on 11/13/12 08:32 AM
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