Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD

People who find they have mild to severe depression when the days grow shorter in fall and winter may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — sometimes called the winter blues.
SAD is more common in women and in families where other members suffer from it. But it can also affect men and people of all ages, including children and teens, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Very often, people with seasonal depression have at least one close relative with a psychiatric disorder, typically major depressive disorder or alcohol abuse.
SAD symptoms most often emerge during the darker winter months, then disappear as days grow longer and brighter come spring.
It’s estimated that as many as 6 percent of Americans suffer from seasonal depression, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
Symptoms of SAD, include:
Weight gain: Cravings for sweet and starchy foods — comfort foods — lead to excess weight.
Daytime fatigue: People with SAD are tired and have less energy during the day. They may also find themselves sleeping a lot, but getting no relief from their fatigue. “With SAD, you eat more and sleep more. It’s hibernation-like.”
Increased irritability and anxiety: People with SAD worry more than others about everyday events, and they can also become easily irritated. In addition, they can have trouble concentrating.
Social withdrawal: Those with SAD typically prefer to be alone: They shun the company of friends and family and don’t participate in activities they normally enjoy. Their social behavior is often hard to understand as they give up activities they would normally enjoy.
Physical discomfort: Some people have symptoms such as headaches. Others have a heavy feeling in their arms and legs, as though their limbs are weighing them down.
Oversleeping: People with SAD may sleep more than what’s normal for them during the winter months, yet they’ll still feel tired and have little energy. And in the summer months, people who suffer from SAD may have the opposite problem-Insomnia.
SAD is treatable, however, and various treatment methods can help.
Light Therapy for SAD:
The best time to use light therapy is in the morning. “Sit in front of the box in the morning before going to work and give yourself some sunshine. Light therapy typically takes about 30 minutes a day, and treatment usually continues on a daily basis from the time of year that symptoms begin — such as in the fall — and lasts throughout the winter months.
Dawn simulators, which gradually increase the light in your bedroom during your last 30 minutes of sleep, can also help.
If you don’t want to buy either a light box or a dawn simulator, take advantage of natural sunlight. In the afternoon when the sun is at its brightest, go outside for at least 20 minutes. Also sit near the window when you’re inside, and open the blinds or curtains to let in as much sunshine as possible.

Professional Help for Seasonal Affective Disorder:
“Find a relationship with a clinician who can coach you through this and figure out if it is indeed SAD, or if you do worse at Christmas time because your father died on Christmas Eve.
Talk therapy can help you explore your feelings and learn to look on the brighter side of life.

Take a vacation to where it’s warm and sunny:
Maintain relationships with friends and family. “If you go to church, don’t stop,” he says. “If your family is a big source of stress, figure out a way to be with them that’s not overwhelming to you. Maybe plan your longer visits for the summer when you seem to be doing better.”

Bouts of depression can be controlled by eating healthy, exercising, and loading up on probiotics and vitamin D. In winter, choose to eat lean protein, healthy greens, red potatoes, and other root vegetables

What not to do: Because SAD usually develops during the winter months — when holiday festivities are in full force — self-medication is tempting. “Alcohol use tends to go up in the winter as people attend more parties.” But “if you’re using alcohol or drugs to change the depressed way you feel this time of year, it’s probably compounding your problems as opposed to helping them.”