It may not just be the winter blues your feeling. Between 5 an 10% of the population experience something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. Sad is a seasonal form of depression, often linked to the decrease in sunlight. Most people begin to feel the effects of SAD in the fall and the effects can last until the spring or early summer. The farther north you go, the more likely you are to be affected by SAD.
SAD shares many symptoms with major and moderate depression, but the most common symptoms are fatigue, periods of lack of motivation, a sense of hopelessness and social withdrawal. Other common symptoms include weight gain or loss, craving carbohydrates, oversleeping, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.
There are several different methods of treatments available to ease or prevent these symptoms from interfering with your every day life. A common and easy treatment involves a light box. A light box is a bright lamp that produces energy similar to the sun. You expose your face to the lamp for about 20-30 minutes every day and it is supposed to change your brain chemistry. Not all lamps are produced the same, so it is important to speak to a doctor before you pick one out to see what your needs are.
Talk therapy is another way to help lessen the symptoms of SAD and major depression. By talking to a professional, you can identify stressors in your life that worsen or trigger the effects of SAD during the day. It can also teach you how to manage stress to keep anxiety levels down.
Some people find that medication can help prevent or lessen their symptoms when combined with another form of therapy, be it talk therapy or phototherapy. It is important to talk to your doctor before you decide medication is the best option as results can vary.