It's prime time for seasonal affective disorder, or "SAD." Now that clocks are set back and we see fewer hours of sunlight, some people really start to feel down this time of year. In fact, about one half million people suffer from "SAD"' and three-quarters are women.
"It really is a form of major depression so believe it or not we see a lot of depletion of serotonin in studies of people that have this pattern of seasonal depression," explained Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea.
Seasonal Affective Disorder usually starts in the fall, worsens in the winter and ends in the spring. People suffering from "SAD" have symptoms similar to depression. They may feel sad, anxious or lose interest in activities.
"We see things like sluggishness. People are tired, they're fatigued, they crave carbohydrates. They'll often indulge and gain weight during the winter months, they fail to socialize and they get kind of irritable," Bea said.
Bright light therapy, or phototherapy, a special lamp that emits light at an intensity of ten thousand 'lux', is an effective treatment for "SAD." Bea says about 70 percent of people will find it helps. S
Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed along with light therapy. In addition, spending time outdoors in sunlight, socializing and staying active may help.
"Starting actually to schedule out your days, activities a day in advance, so you have a plan as to what you're going to do and commit yourself to it. It's actually a good treatment for depression any time of year, but it's particularly useful during that seasonal affective time," Bea said.
If you think you have seasonal affective disorder, rather than self-treating, Bea recommends seeing a doctor to get the symptoms properly assessed and treated.