Are Colder, Shorter Days Making you SAD?

Northwestern Medicine
Psychiatry and Psychology December 22, 2011

The sun seems to be on sabbatical and the temperature outside has dropped dramatically. If you’re feeling depressed, grumpy, moody or anxious, you’re not alone. An estimated 4-6 percent of Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and another 10-20 percent suffer from a mild form of SAD, especially in the winter months.

“SAD is a type of depression that shouldn’t be ignored and can be treated,” said John Stracks, MD, integrative medicine specialist at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.

SAD affects people between the ages of 15 and 55 and occurs mostly in women. It is most common in people who live in areas where winter days are very short.

The exact causes of SAD are unknown, but there are some common theories of the cause, like the lack of sunlight during the winter. Lack of light may upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms.

Treatment options for SAD include light therapy, which works by mimicking sunlight to cause a biochemical change in your brain that lifts your mood as well as psychotherapy, medication and alternative therapies.

Learn more about SAD and treatment options for the disorder.

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