Do you ever feel like you have the winter blues? There might be a medical reason for that. If you have this feeling year after year around the same time, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to Dr. John Fleming of The Jane Pauley Community Health Center, “SAD, also known as ‘winter depression,’ is a subtype of depression that follows regular seasonal patterns.” Symptoms may start in the fall and could continue until early spring. Alternatively, a lesser number of people suffer during the opposite time of the year, with the depressive feelings starting at the beginning of spring and diminishing near the beginning of fall. Dr. Fleming explains that “the disorder may be a little more common in women, but women tend to have milder symptoms than men.” He also states that “at the northern latitudes where the amount of daylight shortening is the most dramatic, SAD seems to last longer with more severe symptoms.”

Common symptoms of SAD include: feeling sad or moody, increased sleep, increased weight, low energy, trouble sleeping, feelings of rejection, and increased appetite.

What causes this seasonal depression? One cause may be from the disruption of the body’s internal clock when there is a reduced level of sunlight during winter months. Similarly, the change of the season may fluctuate a person’s level of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep cycles. Reduced sunlight can also decrease the level of serotonin, which affects a person’s mood.

Thankfully, SAD can be treated in many ways. One of the most interesting ways to treat this disorder is through light therapy. According to Dr. Fleming, “Improvement in symptoms might be expected after several days of 30 minutes treatments with a 10,000-lux commercial light box for around $100.” He explains that if you consider light therapy, you should seek professional advice regarding proper use, eye protection, etc. Therapy is another way to relieve these depressive feelings. If symptoms are particularly severe, you can talk to your provider about the use of antidepressants to overcome the symptoms of SAD. A combination of all three might be the way your provider recommends treating you for this disorder.

If you feel that you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), please contact your primary care provider. The Jane Pauley Community Health Center can provide the help you need. Please call 1-844-MYJPCHC today to make an appointment with any of our family practice or behavioral health providers to discuss your questions and concerns about Seasonal Affective Disorder.