Mental Health Professionals Provide Tips For Coping With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is often brought on by the beginning of winter.

New York City residents walk the streets during the first snowfall.
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Also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is often brought on by the beginning of winter.

Not everyone loves the wintertime. While many may be excited about the changing color of the leaves and the drop in temperatures, some might be experiencing a strange sort of sadness they can’t quite place. This depression that many people experience during the change of seasons is called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. While this may just mean a twinge of sadness here and there for some, for others it can be simply unbearable. According to Today, there are certain measures you can take to lessen the effects of this disorder and find relief.

Kelly Rohan, a psychology professor at the University of Vermont, has dedicated her career to studying this particular condition. Seasonal affective disorder has actually existed for many years, but it was not always understood for what it was. “SAD is clinical depression. That surprises a lot of people — I think they confuse it with the winter blues,” Rohan told Today.

“There’s evidence the symptoms have been with us since the beginning of time. Thousands of years ago, ancient physicians and philosophers were writing about the impact of the changing seasons on mood.”

The signs of seasonal affective disorder are the same as a common case of depression, but they typically begin to show up during fall and let up as spring comes around again. Fatigue, social withdrawal, trouble sleeping, and sudden changes in weight are common side effects of this condition. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about what sort of treatment might be best for you. Some patients may be prescribed medication while others might be advised to try out various kinds of therapy.

Light therapy has proven to be particularly useful in helping those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. This type of therapy involves a box that gives off a bright light while filtering out ultraviolet rays. Patients are encouraged to keep the light box close by them, ideally sitting in front of it for 20 minutes to an hour each day. The light exposure helps the brain wake up and signals it to stop producing melatonin, the chemical that makes us sleepy. “So this big burst of light first thing in the morning to simulate an early dawn will, in theory, cut off that melatonin production and shift the biological clock back the way it’s normally functioning in the summer time,” Rohan said.