Winter is here. The once beautiful fall colors are quickly fading and unless the sun is shining brightly, everything appears to have a gray hue. It’s no wonder that your mood has darkened with the days. It is estimated that half a million Americans are negatively affected by this changing season. They feel depressed, irritable and constantly exhausted. Activity levels decrease and job performance suffers. This feeling of seasonal despair has a name – Seasonal Affective Disorder or appropriately, “SAD.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
What You Should Know About SAD
- Between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women. If you are a female between 15 and 55, you are more likely to develop SAD.
- SAD is not related to temperature, but rather daylight. Some experts believe that a lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps regulate sleep and can cause symptoms of depression.
- SAD can be treated. If your symptoms are mild, meaning, they don’t interfere with your daily life, light therapy may help. Studies suggest 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.
- It takes more than just one winter depression to be diagnosed with SAD. Individuals must meet certain criteria:
- The symptoms and remission of the systems must have occurred during the last two consecutive years.
- The seasonal depressive episodes must outnumber the non-seasonal depressive episodes in one’s lifetime.
- New studies have found that SAD may be related to a vitamin D deficiency.