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Feeling Down in the Winter: You May Have Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you feel a bit down during the winter months versus the warm weather months? You may be feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. During the months of winter, people can experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a condition which can lead to periods of depression. The underlying cause of SAD is not entirely clear. However, researchers speculate that variations in a hormone called melatonin may be related to the condition. Melatonin assists in sleep cycle regulation and mood. The lack of light during winter months can have a direct effect on melatonin levels and result in symptoms of depression.

Who Is Prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect from 1 percent to nearly 10 percent of the population. People living in northern climates within the US may have a higher risk because of particularly short days. The symptoms of SAD can consist of depressed mood, low energy, and difficulty with concentration. Women have been shown to be more prone to the disorder than men and people with SAD usually have at least one family member with a history of depression.

Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Full-spectrum light therapy has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of SAD. Light therapy was first identified as a potential treatment for this condition in the 1980s. Since, light boxes have been designed that mimic sunlight by emitting full-spectrum light (light with a variety of wavelengths). These boxes have been utilized and shown to be effective in the treatment of depression related to SAD. Often, 30-minute daily sessions of light therapy result in measurable positive outcomes. This can be done in a comfortable chair and include reading, watching TV, or other activities that can be enjoyed while sitting beneath the full spectrum light. Light boxes can be obtained by numerous companies online and the treatment can be self-administered in the comfort of one’s home environment. A psychologist or counselor can assist with the accurate diagnosis and distinction of SAD from other types of depression.