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Are Winter Blues Real?

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Are Winter Blues Real?

After the leaves have fallen and the wind chills the air, many Americans experience a profound sense of sadness, as well as lethargy. They often attribute it to “the blues” associated with the change of seasons. After all, the winter makes it difficult to go outside, and the days are shorter.

But some people experience an exaggerated form of these symptoms. They suffer from what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a disorder that may affect over 10 million Americans (while the milder, “Winter Blues” may affect a larger number of individuals).

The typical symptoms of SAD include:

  • Excessive sleeping, difficulty staying awake, overeating, and weight gain during the fall or winter months
  • Feelings of extreme fatigue and inability to maintain regular lifestyle schedule
  • Depression (feelings of sadness, loss of feelings, apathy) combined with irritability
  • Lack of interest in social interactions and losing interest in activities of enjoyment

Those suffering from mild cases of SAD can benefit from additional exposure to the sun. This can include a long walk outside or arranging your home or office so that you are exposed to a window during the day.

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For many suffering from more severe cases of the condition, light therapy (phototherapy) has proven an effective treatment option. This form of therapy involves exposure to very bright light (usually from a special fluorescent lamp) for a few hours each day during the winter months. Additional relief has been found with psychotherapy sessions, and in some cases, the prescription of antidepressants.

Getting screened and evaluated is a sensible way to take care of your health and ensure that you can enjoy the season. Symptoms of SAD can be confused with other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism or viral infections like mononucleosis, so a proper evaluation by a medical professional is advised.

If you feel you are suffering from SAD, consult with your doctor about possible treatment options.

For more information about SAD, check out the following web sites:

The Mayo Clinic

American Academy of Family Physicians

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