Therapy Helps Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder

The holiday season is supposed to be jolly and joy-filled. But for people who suffer from depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD, the holidays can be a particularly trying time.

SAD is best known for its fall-onset pattern, in which symptoms begin in late fall when the days become shorter, and typically lasts through spring. Overcast climates and more extreme latitudes both contribute to the condition – and Whatcom County has both in spades. Some experts are skeptical that SAD is a true syndrome, but there is enough evidence of the uniqueness and prevalence of the condition that most mental health professionals support it as a truly unique entity.

While many people may become a little “down” during the winter, true SAD is characterized by features of major depression, though the features may be somewhat atypical (think hibernation). SAD is more likely than typical depression to be associated with increased sleep (rather than decreased sleep), increased appetite with carbohydrate craving (rather than decreased appetite), increased weight (rather than decreased weight), irritability, interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity), and leaden paralysis (a heavy, leaden feeling in arms or legs). Both types of depression are associated with sadness, anhedonia (loss of ability to feel joy or pleasure), and feelings of hopelessness. Some people experience these symptoms every fall and winter.

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