Seasonal Affective Disorder
Information about seasonal affective disorder and tips on how to cope with it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, often called SAD, is a cyclical illness characterized by depression during the fall and winter months and less depressed or even elated moods in the spring and summer months. SAD is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes, thus the onset is usually in October or November and subsides in March or April. Women are mostly affected by SAD but there are cases of men and children who suffer from it. The good news is that this condition can be treated.
The symptoms in adults include sadness or anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, carbohydrate craving, decreased energy in the fall and winter, withdrawal from friends and family, difficulty concentrating and appetite changes (usually increased appetite). Symptoms in children include irritability, difficulty getting out of bed and school problems in fall and winter.
Light therapy consists of using a light box with high-intensity florescent lights. This kind of therapy has proven extremely effective, with symptoms subsiding in as little as a few days or weeks. The treatment consists of daily half hour to two hour sessions of sitting in front of the light box, where those affected can read, study, eat or do other daily activities. While light therapy is generally the first-line treatment approach for SAD, other methods, including antidepressant medications, may also be useful. Alterations in lifestyle such as modifying indoor lighting environment, exposure to natural sunlight, winter vacations, stress management and dietary approaches can also be helpful to relieve some of the symptoms of SAD.