Do long winter nights make you feel blue? Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do long winter nights make you feel blue? Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the Cleveland Clinic “Approximately half a million people in the United States suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, while 10 to 20% may suffer from a milder form of winter blues.” People who live in northern latitudes seem to be more affected than people who live closer to the equator. While not completely understood, several factors may play a role in seasonal affective disorder, including less exposure to sunlight and an increase of melatonin production in some people.

Consider talking to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • A “leaden” sensation in the limbs
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain.

Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t need to keep you down. Fortunately, there are several effective therapies for SAD. The most common treatment is phototherapy, or bright light therapy. Special light boxes that emit 10,000 Lux are used to treat SAD. The Cleveland Clinic reports light therapy is generally safe and well tolerated, but not appropriate for people at risk of damage to the retina of the eye, so this type of treatment must be medically supervised.

Physical activity and exercise can also improve one’s mood and a feeling of wellbeing. Even if cloudy, consider taking a walk outside to stay active. Eating foods vitamin-rich foods and supplementing with Vitamin D can also be helpful.

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