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Looking out the window and it’s snowing again. Feeling the pitter patter of cabin fever creeping up on me once more. Or the onset of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But what exactly is SAD?

 According to the American Academy of Family Physicians,
“patients with seasonal affective disorder have episodes of major depression that tend to recur during specific times of the year, usually in winter. Like major depression, seasonal affective disorder probably is under diagnosed in primary care settings. “
The NIH defines SAD as:Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter.Furthermore the NIH describes the tell-tale signs as:Symptoms usually build up slowly in the late autumn and winter months. Symptoms are usually the same as with other forms of depression:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness and irritability

SAD can sometimes become long-term depression. Bipolar disorder or thoughts of suicide are also possible.

 Okay now we know what defines SAD. The next question is what causes it? Are there any biologic markers that can explain the disorder or is it based mainly on the environmental factors?
As per WebMD:
“Researchers are still far from agreement about the precise cause of SAD and suggest it may have more than one cause. Currently, the most likely explanation involves the brain chemical serotonin, which during the short days of winter reaches its lowest concentrations in key parts of the brain, causing depression. Whatever the chemical constituents, SAD is triggered by inadequate outdoor light and exacerbated by stress. Heredity may also play a role.
Some researchers believe that a lack of sunlight disrupts circadian rhythms, which regulate your body’s internal clock.”
Now that we know the definition and causes of seasonal affective disorder what are the current treatment regimens?

 There are many references online on ways to prevent and treat SAD.  From taking prescription meds to taking a walk even on cold, cloudy days, (of course, don’t forget to bundle up and dress in layers!). To regular exercise and just merely pulling open the blinds to let the sunlight in. Whatever your personal choice is to treat this very common but under diagnosed disorder, the first step as in any disorder is awareness of the symptoms and proactively engaging in the treatment process.

Personally I’m a big believer in visualizing your goals. So to make my dreams of white sand (not white snow ) more real for me I will have this visual in mind.

“One must maintain a little of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
― Thoreau



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Comment by Penny Roach on January 28, 2013 at 12:11pm

This is a very timely blog post.  I live in the upper Midwest and can relate to feeling the Winter Blues.  Last year, I suffered for 2 straight months not even wanting to get dressed or leave the house.  Now that I'm educated, I'm having a GREAT January and look forward to February as well.

I don't take any medication but am implementing some of the tips that you describe.  I think of lot of people can relate and be well served by your post.  Thank you and keep it up!!

Penny Roach

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