Seasonal affective disorder: how to recognize it

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Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and low energy.

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As the temperature cools and the days get shorter, some people may experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

SAD is a type of depression related to seasonal changes that usually occur during the fall and winter months.

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Experts say the mood disorder is more common in women and young people and in people who spend long winter nights.

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Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, low energy and attention, social withdrawal, increased sleep, loss of interest in work or other activities, sluggish gait, increased appetite with weight gain, and unhappiness and irritability.

NS National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says Symptoms can last for four to five months.

Treatment of SAD includes light therapy using a 10,000 lux light box, medications, vitamin D, and psychotherapy.

The Cleveland Clinic also recommends That people who suffer from the disorder eat a balanced diet, exercise, visit friends and spend more time outside.

The NIMH recommends that people with Winter Pattern-SAD should start treatment before fall to help prevent or reduce the effects of the disorder.

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However, the organization said, existing studies “have found no convincing evidence that starting light therapy or psychotherapy prematurely can prevent the onset of depression.”

Millions of American adults may suffer from SAD, although many may not be aware they have the condition.

The Cleveland Clinic states that about 5% of adults in the US experience SAD and that about 10% to 20% of people in the US may get a milder form of the winter blues.

SAD is more common in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, and people with SAD tend to have other mental disorders as well.

In addition, the NIMH states that SAD sometimes runs in families.

Scientists do not fully understand what causes SAD, although research suggests that sufferers may have reduced activity of the brain chemical serotonin. Others produce too much melatonin, or they may have low levels of vitamin D. In addition, the way sunlight modulates levels of molecules that help maintain normal serotonin levels appears to not work properly in people with the disorder.

Alcohol or drug use can worsen symptoms, experts warn.

People who believe they may be suffering from SAD are encouraged to speak with a health care provider or mental health specialist about their concerns.

Health care providers may diagnose someone with SAD if there are symptoms of major depression, depressive episodes occurring during a specific season, or more frequent during a specific season than during the rest of the year.


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