If the change in weather and shorter days are making people feeling down or less energetic, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or what many would refer to as “seasonal depression,” is a health concern for numerous people at this time of the year. Bayhealth psychiatrist Andrea DeSimone, DO, offered information on how to overcome SAD and enjoy life no matter how dark or cold it might be outside.
“SAD is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons change,” said DeSimone. “It is common for it to occur during the onset of winter and can affect anyone, though research shows it is mostly diagnosed in women and younger adults.”
DeSimone said common symptoms include:
- Low energy;
- Appetite changes (usually an increased appetite and craving carbs);
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating;
- Increase in sleeping;
- Fidgeting and pacing often;
- Feeling “stuck in the mud”; and
- Loss of interest in activities.
DeSimone explained that a lack of light exposure plays a huge role in SAD. One way to change that is through bright light therapy using a “light box.” Bright light therapy increases the amount of sunlight the body receives by using a special light designed to mimic natural sunlight. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate the two chemicals thought to be contributing to SAD—melatonin and serotonin.
“Light boxes show the best effect in treating SAD when they are used early in the morning just after waking up, for 30 to 60 minutes light therapy,” said DeSimone.
Those who are not a fan of being outdoors during the winter months can add natural light to their routine by having their curtains open during the daytime or spending time in spaces filled with many windows.
A mood booster could be an early morning walk or 30-minute workout in the evening. Taking vitamin D supplements may also help to reduce symptoms.
“There is no need to ‘tough it out’ or endure SAD alone. While it may disrupt your routine, it should only last a few months,” said DeSimone. “It is also good to note that it is not uncommon to experience SAD during the onset of the summer season.”
Those who may be experiencing SAD are advised to talk with their doctor. Call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) or visit Bayhealth.org/Find-a-Doc to find a provider through Bayhealth.