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Shorter days can bring on seasonal depression

Feb. 10, 2018—The cold, short days of winter often make us want to snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and stay there. And that's normal. But what if the season zaps your energy and leaves you feeling hopeless or struggling to get out of bed?

In that case, you could have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs with the change of seasons.

What is SAD?

SAD usually starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away in the spring and summer. The disorder can occur in the summer too, but that isn't common.

The symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Having low energy.
  • Sleeping more than normal.
  • Eating more than normal.
  • Losing interest in things you used to like.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Thinking about death or suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women and younger adults seem to have a higher risk of SAD than do men and older adults. Those who have depression, or a family history of depression, are also more likely to be diagnosed with SAD. Also, living farther from the equator can raise your risk.

You can get help

Three types of treatments are typically used for SAD, either alone or combined:

Light therapy. Because SAD has been linked to less sun exposure, light therapy has been a traditional treatment. This includes sitting in front of a light box that filters out ultraviolet rays.

Medication. Doctors often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat SAD. However, as with any medication, it's important to talk to your doctor about side effects and risks.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. Also known as talk therapy, the treatment can help you cope with winter.

Spring is right around the corner, bringing longer days and warmer weather. But if you're struggling with depression, don't wait to talk to your doctor. And take our quiz to learn more today.

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