SAD at Winter Time

5 things you may not have known about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

*This article is copied from the bi-weekly e-newsletter for MHAFC.org (Mental Health  America of Franklin County)

According to American Family Physician up to 20% of the US population may experience mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, meaning they are negatively affected by the changing seasons and reduc. They may feel depressed, irritable, and tired. Activity levels may decrease, and they find themselves sleeping more.

Some interesting facts about SAD include:

1. It is four times more common in women then men.
2. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than age 20. And older adults are less likely to experience SAD.
3. SAD is believed to be related to daylight, not the temperature. Some experts believe that a lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of melatonin.
4. This is probably why it is more common the farther north you go. For example, it’s seven times more common in Washington state than in Florida.
5. Not as common, a second type of seasonal affective disorder known as summer depression can occur in individuals who live in warmer climates. Their depression is related to heat and humidity, rather than light.

SAD is treatable. If symptoms are mild, using light therapy has shown to be highly effective. Studies show that between 50% and 80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms. However, light therapy must be used for a certain amount of time daily and continue throughout the dark, winter months. For more severe cases,  your doctor may also want you to try an antidepressant or behavior therapy.

For in-depth information about dealing with SAD, check out Norman Rosenthal’s book, Winter Blues. 

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