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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that recurs regularly at certain times of the year, usually beginning in late fall or winter and lasting into spring. It is sometimes referred to as the “winter blues.” Scientists believe SAD is caused by a biochemical change in the brain, triggered by shorter days and reduced sunlight during the winter. In particular, two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and melatonin, have been linked to changes in mood, energy and sleep patterns. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.
Females are up to four times more likely to be affected by SAD than males. Although SAD can affect children, it is reported mostly in people between the ages of 18 and 30, and it tends to be less common as people age. Those already experiencing clinical depression or bipolar disorder may see a worsening of their symptoms in winter.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of SAD are consistent with depression, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell if someone has SAD or another type of depression.

Specific symptoms of SAD include:

Depressed mood
Loss of energy
Increased sleep and/or early morning awakening
Anxiety
Irritability
Difficulty concentrating
Desire to avoid social contact
Loss of libido/interest in sexual activity
Change in appetite, particularly carbohydrate cravings which can lead to weight gain
Heavy feeling in arms and legs

 

How Crosswinds can help

Crosswinds works with clients suffering from symptoms of SAD through a variety of methods, including talk therapy and light therapy. In light therapy, clients are exposed to a light box that simulates sunlight for 30 minutes a day. In some cases, antidepressant medications are also used to help treat SAD. If this is advisable, Crosswinds therapists refer our clients for the appropriate medical consultation.
Since it’s aligned with the changing of the seasons, recurrence of SAD is usually predictable. This allows Crosswinds therapists to work with clients to help reduce and even prevent symptoms. Strategies like starting light therapy early in the season, spending more time outside in natural light, adding light at home, managing stress with meditation or other practices and even traveling to a sunny destination can all help make SAD more manageable.

If you or a loved one struggles with depression linked to the seasons, please contact Crosswinds today:

Get Help

To learn more about SAD visit:

Mental Health America
Norman Rosenthal, MD