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Seasonal Affective Disorder
Don't ignore the signs.

Loss of energy. Inability to concentrate. Sleeping all day. If you only experience these feelings during the winter, you may not think they're a problem. But they could actually signal a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Other SAD symptoms include:

  • Carbohydrate craving
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Increased premenstrual symptoms

The symptoms of SAD often are severe enough that they interfere with work and family life

Lack of sunlight linked to SAD
The true cause of SAD is still unknown. But some experts believe it's related to a number of factors, including body temperature and lack of sunlight. Experts think that sunlight helps regulate chemicals in the body that control sleep and depressive symptoms.

Light brightens hope for sufferers
Left untreated, SAD may progress into a major depressive condition. So, talk with your doctor if you experience symptoms. Your doctor may suggest light therapy-the use of specialized lights that mimic the sun's rays. One study found that daily 30-minute doses of light therapy in the early morning helped ease SAD symptoms.

Antidepressants and talk therapy also may be effective.

Look to the light in yourself
People with SAD also can take advantage of self-care strategies to beat their blues in the autumn and winter months:

  • Take time for enjoyable activities, such as going to a movie or attending social or religious events.
  • Add exercise, a natural antidepressant, to your everyday routine.
  • Try to confide in someone and spend time with other people.
  • Delay major decisions until a depressive episode lifts.
  • Set priorities. Break large tasks into smaller ones.
  • Remember that feeling better takes time. Be patient about progress.

Last reviewed: October 2012

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