CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the days become shorter and the weather gets colder, a startling 5 percent of the U.S. population will begin to struggle with something known as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to the American Medical Association.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a SAD, is a type of depression that experts say usually comes effects individuals in the winter months due to a loss of sunlight.
AMA officials say women tend to struggle more often with this type of depression and the main age of onset of seasonal depression is between 20 to 30-years-old.
WCCB is here to further explain the disorder as well as provide ways to combat SAD this winter.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
As defined by the American Medical Association, seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression is a type of depression that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Experts say SAD usually occurs when the seasons change, and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into winter months. SAD is said to be caused by the reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months that may affect an individual’s serotonin.
AMA says symptoms include:
- Anxiety: Tension and inability to tolerate stress.
- Mood changes: Extremes of mood.
- Lethargy: Feeling of fatigue . Unable to carry out normal routine.
- Increased appetite: Craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain.
- Excessive sleepiness: Desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake, or sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking.
- Depression: Misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, diminished interest in activities, despair, and apathy.
- Social problems: Irritability and desire to avoid social contact.
- Sexual problems: Loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact.
- Phototherapy or bright light therapy:
- AMA officials say light therapy is shown to be effective in 85 percent of diagnosed SAD cases, even though no research findings link this therapy with an antidepressant effect.
- Light therapy consists of exposing an individual to artificial light in hopes to mimic the effects of natural outdoor light.
- Individuals interested in investing in light therapy can purchase a variety of products, but we suggest the Happy Light Luxe by Verilux (available for $69.99 at Walmart and on Amazon).
- Increased Exercise:
- Hit the gym with a friend, go for swim indoors, try yoga, and, in general, get the body moving to feel the release of feel-good hormones which provide a natural mood boost.
- Mindful Meditation:
- Try starting your day with some meditation.
- Experts at Harvard University say to take the following steps:
- Sit on a straight-backed chair or find a comfortable place on the floor.
- Focus on your breath and pay attention to the sensations in your body.
- Bring your thoughts back to center.
- Make a commitment.