Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many of us get the winter blues when the skies go gray and the air turns frigid each year. But for some, the change in seasons seems to trigger more severe depressive symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition distinguished by recurrent depression episodes, often in the late fall and winter, followed by times of normal or elevated mood in alternating seasons. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), most SAD sufferers are women who exhibit the illness starting in their 20s, although some men and adolescents also are affected. Symptom often begin in October or November, tapering off in March or April. Those with SAD may oversleep, have report daytime fatigue, crave carbohydrates, and gain weight. Others may have more typical depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, or social isolation.

Current treatments for SAD are more widely understood today. Light therapy, using a lamp box and individualized dosing, which may vary in terms of duration, time of day, and intensity. NAMI recommends that those with mild SAD symptoms consider following the light therapy guidelines set forth by the Center for Environmental Therapeutics. Those with more severe symptoms – those which significantly impact daily functioning – ought to consult a mental health professional. NAMI also warns that those with Bipolar I disorder must be on mood-stabilizing mediation while using light therapy in order to protect against triggering manic episodes.

Our therapists are always available for consultation on SAD and other mood disorders.

Information culled from NAMI, www.nami.org.

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