Beat Those Wintertime Blahs

Seasonal Affective Disorder

If your winter melancholy deepens into depression but lifts when spring blossoms, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of the disorder include continued fatigue despite increased sleep, increased appetite and a craving for carbohydrates. But the key to SAD is that symptoms occur only during fall and winter months, and you have a full remission during spring and summer.

"The cause of SAD is not getting enough sunlight exposure when you wake up in the morning," says Dr. Al Lewy, M.D., Ph.D., who is the vice chair of the department of psychiatry at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. "Logically then, people who work at home should try to sleep as late as they can in the winter so that when they wake up, it will be after dawn. They [should] then go outside and get 15 to 30 minutes of bright light exposure."

The main therapy for SAD patients is bright light therapy: Patients sit in front of a light box that emits intense light. Though only 5 percent of Americans have the most severe form of SAD, another 15 percent are mildly affected, and Lewy says that bright light treatment is helpful regardless the severity of the disorder.

Additional Resources

Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is And How To Overcome It by Norman E. Rosenthal

Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association. Click here for information on depressive illness and mood disorders.

Internet Mental Health. A free online encyclopedia of mental health information

The SunBox Co. and Alaska Northern Lights. The SunBox Co. offers four sizes of light boxes, ranging in prices from $197 to $525. Alaska Northern Lights' NorthStar 10,000, a 13-by-24-by-4-inch light box, costs $389, and the company offers a price-matching guarantee on comparable light boxes.

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