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Q&A: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Q&A: Seasonal Affective Disorder


Winter in New England is traditionally cold and long, and sunshine can be sparse. This can be a drag, but how can you tell if it’s just the “winter blues”, or something more serious?

Q: What is the difference between Seasonal Affective Disorder and the winter blues?

A: The “winter blues” are fairly common, with many people experiencing a shift in mood during winter months, especially in areas that get very little sun. Although the blues might cause you to feel down, they don’t typically hinder the ability to enjoy life. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is more serious. SAD is a form of depression that regularly occurs each year in the late fall or early winter.

Q: Who is at risk?

A: Those with history of depression are at a higher risk for seasonal affective disorder. There is also an increased risk for people who live in the north as opposed to south of the United States, where winters tend to be milder. Women are about four times at higher risk than men, and those who are younger are at a higher risk than those who are older.

Q: What signs and symptoms point to Seasonal Affective Disorder?

A: Most symptoms are similar to those of depression. These can include feelings of sadness, moodiness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, trouble concentrating and sleeping, and an increased craving for carbohydrates and sweets.

Q: How is Seasonal Affective Disorder treated?

A: It’s important to consult a medical professional to discuss various options for treatment, such as psychotherapy and/or medications. Tasks as simple as getting out of bed quicker in the morning, staying active, and spending time outdoors are also helpful. Bright light therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment, to counteract the experience of getting so little light in the winter months.

If you or a loved one are noticing a significant change in mood, it’s important to seek professional help. To contact or make an appointment with a mental health professional at BMC, call 617.414.4238.

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