anging from mild “winter blues” to more severe depression–like symptoms, Seasonal Affective Disorder may hit up to 10 million Americans annually, between September and April when daylight hours decrease. Research indicates SAD rates rise for populations farther from the equator; some believe the condition stems from lack of exposure to natural sunlight, disrupting biorhythms and brain chemicals.
Common SAD symptoms include:
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, low self–esteem
- Concentration problems
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Appetite and weight changes
- Avoiding social contact
- Loss of interest
- Sleeping problems
- Decreased libido.
It’s important to consult with a doctor or mental health professional if these symptoms emerge; every case is different. Common SAD treatment options include:
- Light boxes — devices that mimic outdoor light and are thought to increase mood and regulate sleep cycles
- Psychotherapy, counseling, or behavioral therapy
- Going outdoors to increase daylight exposure
- Improving diet and exercise.