How to Identify and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you’ve been feeling moody, sluggish, and out of sorts for the past few weeks, it’s not necessarily a simple case of the winter blues. You may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression related to the changes in the seasons. SAD is commonly referred to as “winter depression” and typically starts in late fall and continues through winter. reveals that studies show SAD is about “four times more common in women than men” and that 23 is the average age for when people first develop the illness. Here are the symptoms and recommend ways to treat seasonal affective disorder.

According to The Mayo Clinic, common SAD symptoms, include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Irritability and tiredness
  • Changes in appetite, especially cravings for carbohydrate-laden foods
  • Weight gain
  • Trouble with interpersonal relationships
  • Heavy, lead-like feeling in arms and legs

Light therapy is a common, effective treatment for SAD. Dr. Linda Pourmassina, an internal-medicine physician at The Polyclinic in Seattle, says: “Mild SAD can improve significantly with light therapy, which involves sitting for a specified period of time about two feet from a light box that emits 2,500-10,000 lux of light at eye level.” She recommends discussing your symptoms and medical history with your doctor to determine if light therapy is right for you.

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