What Is Winter Depression?
Do you experience increased moodiness and a marked decrease in energy throughout the winter months? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as Winter Depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a pattern of depressive illness in which symptoms occur every winter. Research suggests that the pineal gland in the brains of some people are more highly sensitive to the loss of natural light (beginning when the days become shorter in the fall). Usually peaking in January, this form of depressive illness is accompanied by a host of difficult reactions ranging from depression (and suicidal ideation in the most severe cases) to sluggishness, carbohydrate craving, or seeing everything in a negative light and interpreting the actions of others in the same negative light.
The most common symptoms of Winter Depression include:
What treatments are available for those with winter depression?
Phototherapy - morning exposure to bright, full-spectrum light - can often be dramatically helpful for those suffering from SAD. As little as 30 minutes per day of sitting under a lightbox results in significant improvement in 60% to 80% of SAD patients. Other treatments for depression - including antidepressant medications and counseling - may also be helpful. Additionally, there is new research suggesting the use of the hormone melatonin to relieve winter depression.
People with milder symptoms of the "winter blahs" may be helped by simply spending more time outdoors and exercising regularly in the fall and winter.
If you think you suffer from SAD and want more information, consult your family physician or contact your OEA.
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