Seasonal Affective Disorder: The “what,” “why,” and “what to do.”

Do you experience the “winter blues” every year?

It’s that time of year with daylight saving time ending November 3rd. Autumn and winter, although beautiful seasons, are often gloomy and overcast.

If you find yourself becoming depressed during this time, you may be experiencing SAD, “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a “type” of depression which occurs in late autumn and throughout winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by low energy, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, difficulty sleeping, and possibly suicidal thoughts. It may be caused by family history, gender (more women are affected), Vitamin D insufficiency, and a personal history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder.

This disorder is very common.  It develops due to changes in our internal clock (circadian rhythms) and changes in brain and body chemistry.

What are some steps you can take to prevent or treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?

  • Make certain you maintain good “self care” habits, which include getting enough sleep, eating balanced meals, keeping up with grooming habits, and pampering yourself a bit. Taking care of yourself will assist you in balancing  your energy level.
  • Keep your home “well lit” by opening curtains, turning on existing lights, or if possible, adding additional lights. This helps combat the feeling of “darkness” as the hours of available daylight go down in the fall and winter. Lack of exposure to natural light is believed to be one of the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Try to take walks daily, particularly around noon or soon after, when the sun is at its highest, which aids in combating depression.  Any type of exercise routine will assist with keeping weight down, as those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder tend to eat more and have carbohydrate cravings during autumn and winter months, resulting in weight gain.
  • Use Light Lamps-Also called Light Therapy Lamps, these lamps “mimic” sunlight. Please contact your physician before using one, as the wrong lamp could damage your eyes. Some lamps are designed for skin disorders.  You will need a lamp that eliminates all UV light
  • Medication (an antidepressant), prescribed by your PCP and psychotherapy are also beneficial.

Take steps now to keep your mood and motivation consistent, so you will be able to enjoy the holidays and each beautiful season.

For more information on SAD, please visit these resources:

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts, please class your county’s Crisis Emergency Line. There is help!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-866-273-0339

By county:

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Columbia, Montour, Snyder, and Union Counties) Available 24/7-Call – 1-800 222-9016

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Northumberland County)

Daytime Call- 1-570-495-2040

Nights, Weekends, Holidays Call- 1-855-313-4387

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Bradford, Sullivan, or Tioga Counties)

Available 24/7 Call 1-877-724-7142

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Luzerne and Wyoming Counties)

Available 24/7 Call- 1-570-829-1341 or 1-888-829-1341

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Wayne County)

Available 24/7 Call- 1-570-253-0321

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Pike County)

Available 24/7 Call- 1-570-992-0879 or 1-800-849-1868

Crisis Intervention Hotline: (Lackawanna and Susquehanna Counties)

Available 24/7 Call- 1-570-348-6100

If you do not reside in one of the above counties and are experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts, dial 911 IMMEDIATELY.