As the days get shorter, and the nights longer in late autumn, some people begin to develop a kind of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which can last through the winter months.
Some symptoms of SAD include an inability to concentrate, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. While most people with SAD see these symptoms wane in the spring, they may be left with exhaustion and extra pounds. Believed causes for SAD include changes in the body’s circadian rhythm, eye sensitivity to light, and the workings of chemical messengers like serotonin.
If you think you may have SAD, talk to your healthcare provider so that you can be evaluated.
There are several ways to treat SAD. Psychotherapy can help a person identify and change negative thinking which could be affecting mood and behavior. A psychotherapist can teach healthy ways to cope and manage stress.
Finding ways to catch the sunlight can also help. Keep the blinds in your home open, and if possible sit near a window. Get outside often – taking a walk even on a cloudy day can make a difference. And of course exercise of any kind can relieve stress, and anxiety.
Many people have found that bright light therapy can help diminish the symptoms of SAD. It stimulates cells in the retina that connects to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that aids in controlling circadian rhythms. This can be done by sitting within 18 inches of a special “light box” about 30 minutes a day. These light boxes emit 10,000 lux (“lux” is a measure of light intensity). Light therapy helps a lot of people, but not everyone. That’s why it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to see if it’s an option for you. Veralux, Northern Lights Technology, and Sunbox are reputable companies that manufacture light boxes.
For some people a combination of therapies, as well as medication work best….. Updated and reposted from headache blog 12/27/12