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While there are enjoyable aspects to every season, fall and winter are the times of year when some people struggle with symptoms of depression or “the blues.” Fewer hours of daylight, gray skies and cold weather can stimulate seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in 5 to 10 percent of the population.
Symptoms of SAD may include trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, lack of interest in activities that are normally enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, increased or decreased appetite, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, low energy, and feeling down or depressed.
There are simple steps you can take to help boost your mood and alleviate SAD symptoms:
If seasonal affective disorder becomes unmanageable and impacts your quality of life, it’s important to consult with your primary care provider. There are treatments for SAD that can help you feel better and improve your productivity, mood and outlook. One of these is light therapy (phototherapy).
During light therapy, people sit or work near a light box—an appliance that mimics outdoor light. Research shows this light may cause a chemical change in the brain that improves mood and provides relief from other SAD symptoms. It’s generally recommended that light boxes be used first thing in the morning for about 20-30 minutes. Placing the light box 16 to 24 inches from your face, keep your eyes open, but don’t look directly into the light. Light boxes can be purchased without a prescription, but be sure to consult your primary care provider before using one for SAD.
Other primary treatment methods for SAD are psychotherapy (counseling) and antidepressant medications. After a thorough evaluation, your doctor can recommend the best treatments for you.