The Truth about Seasonal Affective Disorder

Summer’s over, but don’t dread the cold. Seasonal blues are far less common than many believe, reports a new study from Oregon State University.

Researchers surveyed over 800 people, then compared the participants’ responses to local weather conditions, and found that changes in mood couldn’t be explained by sunlight or weather-related factors. (Previous studies show that 92 percent of adults notice seasonal changes in their mood.)

People could be using the term SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) too loosely to describe recurrent mood changes, says study author David Kerr, Ph.D. For instance, colder temps may simply lead you to be a slump on the couch. So it’s not the weather, but the lack of activity and social interaction that leaves you feeling down.

Saying goodbye to summer isn’t easy. But you can keep your blues at bay by planning out how you’ll stay active throughout the colder months now: Start a training program, or plan to meet the guys regularly for pickup games. That way, you’ll avoid an empty schedule—and hermit status—when the warm weather disappears.

If you think your mood may be something more serious, see your doc. SAD follows a strict pattern—depressive symptoms usually come on in fall and go away in spring or summer, Dr. Kerr says. “It happens consistently and can’t be explained by regular yearly stressors, like the holidays or seasonal unemployment.” The good news: With the oversight of a clinical psychologist, 30 to 45 minutes of artificial light therapy can help SAD sufferers.

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