By: Riley Fortier, M.Ed.
What is it?
Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a condition where some people experience a significant mood change with the change of the seasons.
What are the symptoms?
- Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of appetite
- Irritability and agitation
What’s the cause of SAD?
SAD is caused by a change in the season. Typically, SAD happens in the fall and winter months, because the days are shorter and there is less sunlight. But, folks can also experience it in the spring and summer months.
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What are some treatment options?
Many folks who experience SAD benefit from light therapy. Light therapy is the use of artificial light to mimic sunlight on the body. In addition, there are also many different antidepressants available on the market. Further, your doctor might suggest taking vitamin D supplements to help with energy levels.
If using light therapy, a light box is what you’ll need to purchase. The light box must produce at least 10,000 lux of light and produce as little UV as possible. Use the light box first thing in the morning for about 20-30 minutes. The light box should be 16-24 inches away from your face. Do not look directly into the light.
Before buying a light box, consider:
- Is it made specifically to treat SAD?
- How bright is it?
- How much UV light does it release?
- Can it cause eye damage?
- Is it the style you need?
- Can you put it in the right location?
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