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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder
The Facts About SAD

Have you ever noticed that you become a little sad during the darker, colder months of the year? Colder temperatures and fewer hours of daylight can sap your energy. Nothing beats sleeping late on a chilly, overcast morning or spending a snowy afternoon curled up on the couch. That’s completely normal. But some people – including teens – find that during the fall and winter they develop more serious symptoms of depression. This could be the result of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that can affect people during the fall and winter months, especially December, January, and February. Researchers estimate that about 500,000 people in the U.S. suffer from SAD, which affects more females than males. Seasonal affective disorder shows up because the lack of sunlight during this time can cause changes in some people’s brains that trigger depression. It may result in a mild case of the “winter blues” or in more troubling symptoms including fatigue, social withdrawal, irritability, or weight gain.

Like other forms of depression, there are treatments for SAD that can help. For some people, simply spending more time in the sunlight can decrease symptoms. Getting more exercise can also bring relief. Light therapy – in which patients are exposed to very bright lights (way more intense than your typical 100-watt bulb) – is a common solution, and generally works quickly. In other cases, talking therapy or antidepressant medications may be used. The important thing to remember is that people who have SAD don’t have to deal with it alone — effective treatments are available.

SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association

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