Spotting the Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Does colder weather get you down? For many people, the shorter days and long, dark nights of fall and winter can lead to a mild or severe depression known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Anyone of any age can develop SAD, although women in their 20s are especially vulnerable. If you notice symptoms like weight gain, daytime sleepiness, increased irritability and anxiety, and social withdrawal in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to seek treatment for SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Weight gain. Cravings for sweet and starchy foods lead toexcess weight.
- Daytime fatigue. People with SAD are tired during the day and have less energy. They may also find themselves sleeping a lot, but getting no relief from their fatigue. “With SAD, you eat more and sleep more,” Dr. Duckworth says. “It’s hibernation-like.”
- Increased irritability and anxiety. People with SAD worry more about everyday events and can be easily irritated. They can have trouble concentrating, too.
- Social withdrawal. Those with SAD prefer to be alone; they shun the company of friends and family and do not participate in activities they normally enjoy. Often their social behavior is hard to understand.
SAD is treatable, and there are various treatment methods.
SAD: Light Therapy
“Light therapy does seem to have some effectiveness,” Duckworth says. Light therapy boxes are available that mimic the outdoors. You can buy them without a prescription, but they cost about $400 and are not covered by insurance.
The best time to use light therapy is in the morning. “You sit in front of the box in the morning before going to work and give yourself some sunshine,” Duckworth says. Light therapy typically takes about 30 minutes a day. Note: Do not try to use tanning beds as a treatment for SAD. Tanning beds use ultraviolet rays, which can be harmful to your eyes and your skin.