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More than just wintertime blues

by Gretchen Neal/Editor-in-Chief

seasonal depression photo

The sun goes down considerably earlier in winter than in other seasons, causing seasonal depression for some.
Photo by Kaitlyn Conrad

It is a widely known fact that the change from fall to winter can seem pretty gloomy. The sun goes down considerably earlier than other seasons, depleting Vitamin C intake. Winter can also lead to tiredness, due to energy spent trying to stay warm. Along with long periods of inactivity because of the impossibility of going outside to exercise and the several large feasts consumed, winter can leave anyone feeling less than their best.

However, some people may be experiencing something more serious than just being bummed about winter. Some people may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is sometimes referred to as “Seasonal Depression.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mental disorder that can cause depression-like symptoms during certain parts of the year. Around 10 to 20 percent of the United States populace suffers from at least a mild form of SAD, according to the National Mental Health Disorders Association. Commonly, symptoms appear near the end of fall, peak at the months of January and February, and are then diminished at around the start of spring, Dr. Allison Benthal says. Less commonly, SAD symptoms can develop near early spring and only start to fade at the end of summer. There are several theories as to why SAD develops, such as neurotransmitter imbalances and lack of sunlight, but it is most likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, like most mental disorders.

Some of SAD’s symptoms are shared with depression, like sleepiness, lack of interest in normal activities, depressed mood or anxiety and increased appetite, Benthal says.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated with such methods as counseling and light therapy – Benthal suggests taking walks or obtaining a lightbox. Light therapy could decrease the symptoms of SAD.

While it may only affect people for a portion of the year, Seasonal Affective Disorder is no less severe a mental disorder than any other, and it is important that if you suspect you may have it to see a trained professional to be properly diagnosed. From that point on, you should focus on receiving the proper care this condition needs.


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