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Seasonal Affective Disorder | XL Health Blog

Have the Winter Blues? You May Have Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted on 12. Feb, 2016 by in Wellness

Seasonal Affective Disorder | XL Health Blog

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects anywhere from one to ten percent of those living in the United States each year. As the days grow shorter and colder during fall and winter, people who have SAD become depressed. New research has brought more attention to the disorder and has brought help with new treatments.


Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Low energy
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Craving carbohydrates more than usual

Symptoms may be mild during the first part of the season and grow stronger as winter progresses. Though SAD can occur in anyone, it is more likely to occur in women, in people ages 15 to 55 and those who live far from the equator.


Researchers aren’t exactly sure why some people get SAD, but studies have led some scientists to believe that a lack of sunlight is the main cause. Because light affects the levels of serotonin, which is a chemical made by the brain that controls mood, the shorter daylight hours may decrease the levels and cause changes in mood. Additionally, when there is less sunlight, it may disrupt the natural biological clock that many people adhere to, resulting in less sleep and increasing tiredness.


There are several treatment options for SAD. Regular exposure to bright lights, such as fluorescent light, has been found to prevent SAD in some people and decrease the symptoms in others. This light therapy is also known as phototherapy. It should be done each morning and night throughout the fall and winter seasons for optimal effectiveness. Available commercially, phototherapy boxes contain lights that are 25 times brighter than typical household lights.

Antidepressant medications are also helpful in treating the disorder. Antidepressants that are from the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor family (SSRI) have been found to be the most effective.

If possible, many people with severe SAD find that temporarily changing their location to a warmer and brighter climate help to prevent the disorder from occurring. Hawaii, the Caribbean, Arizona or southern California can all be effective locations for preventing SAD.

Many people pass off having the winter blues as a normal part of the year. However, getting a proper diagnosis and help for SAD can help you to enjoy the colder months of the year and feel better year-round.



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