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Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Winter Blues

The days are getting shorter and the nights, longer. Thanksgiving has passed, and Christmas is just around the corner. For many, it’s the season for depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with seasons. It most commonly begins in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.

 SAD, also known as the “winter blues”, affects about 5% of the U.S. population.

·         4 out of 5 people are women

·         Main age of onset is between 20 and 30 years old

·         The further one is from the equator, the more at risk they are for seasonal depression

·         People with a history of other types of depression are more likely to develop SAD

 The symptoms of SAD and depression overlap. It can be hard to distinguish between them.

Depression symptoms:

·         Feelings of misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, diminished interest in activities, despair, and apathy

·         Feeling hopeless or worthless

·         Having low energy

·         Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

·         Having problems with sleep

·         Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

·         Feeling sluggish or agitated

·         Having difficulty concentrating

·         Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

·         Irritability and desire to avoid social contact

·         Loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact

·         Thoughts of death or suicide

 SAD symptoms may also include:

·         Carbohydrate craving

·         Over-eating

·         Increased appetite

·         Excessive sleepiness

·         Weight gain

·         Social withdrawal


·         Anti-depressant medication

·         Vitamin D supplement, if your blood count is low

·         Light Therapy: Replaces the diminished sunshine using daily exposure to bright, artificial light

·         Dawn simulation: This is a form of light therapy that is administered during the final hours of sleep using less intense white light than bright light therapy

·         Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) relies on identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive thoughts

·         Other interventions: Daily walks outside, even on cloudy days; Aerobic exercise; Enhanced indoor lighting

 Sleep hygiene is important for treating SAD:

·         Create a regular light-dark cycle

·         Minimize light exposure, especially blue light from computer monitors and televisions, in the late evening

·         Sleep only as much as you need to feel rested and then get out of bed

·         Avoid forcing sleep

·         Exercise regularly for at least 20 minutes, preferably 4 to 5 hours before bedtime

·         Avoid caffeinated beverages after lunch

·         Avoid alcohol near bedtime

·         Avoid smoking, especially in the evening

·         Do not go to bed hungry

·         Deal with your worries before bedtime


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