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Is it the Winter Blues or Something More? - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Is it the Winter Blues or Something More?

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The change of seasons often brings on a change in mood this time of the year. And,  although the phrases "winter blues" and "seasonal affective disorder" or "sad" are often used interchangeably, health experts say they are different things.

Some of the core symptoms of "SAD" are more serious then the typical lack of energy of tiredness that come along with the simple winter blues. "SAD" symptoms include mood changes, a drop in energy, changes in sleep, appetite and sex drive and cognitive problems.

If you are seeing an increase in these symptoms --you really need to talk to a doctor.

Light therapy is one of the most popular treatments for "seasonal affective disorder", but the experts say you need to do your homework. Your light box should have ten thousand lux bulbs, a filter for harmful u-v rays, and a plastic diffuser--so the light is spread over a wide surface. It's also best to use a reputable manufacturer, so if the light box doesn't work for you, you can get your money back.


From Sanford Health's Health Library

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that affects a person during the same season each year. If you get depressed in the winter but feel much better in spring and summer, you may have SAD.

Anyone can get SAD, but it is more common in:

  • People who live in areas where winter days are very short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons.
  • Women.
  • People between the ages of 15 and 55. The risk of getting SAD for the first time goes down as you age.
  • People who have a close relative with SAD.

What causes SAD? How is SAD diagnosed?

Experts are not sure what causes SAD, but they think it ma y be caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of light may upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms. And it may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin that affects mood.

What are the symptoms?

If you have SAD, you may:

  • Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
  • Lose interest in your usual activities.
  • Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
  • Gain weight.
  • Sleep more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. For most people with SAD, symptoms start in September or October and end in April or May.

How is SAD diagnosed?

It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between nonseasonal depression and SAD, because many of the symptoms are the same. To diagnose SAD, your doctor will want to know if:

  • You have been depressed during the same season and have gotten better when the seasons changed for at least 2 years in a row.
  • You have symptoms that often occur with SAD, such as being very hungry (especially craving carbohydrates), gaining weight, and sleeping more than usual.
  • A close relative—a parent, brother, or sister—has had SAD.
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