2 Your Health: Seasonal Affective Disorder

‘Tis the season for seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.

About half a million people in the United States suffer from the winter condition.

Three-quarters of SAD sufferers are women and it’s more commonly seen in cloudy parts of the country or areas farther north or south of the equator.

Experts say seasonal affective disorder typically worsens in the winter.

Try an exercise program

Sluggishness, tiredness, lethargy and avoidance are hallmarks of seasonal affective disorder.

According to Cleveland Clinic psychologist Scott Bea, Psy.D, exercise is a good way to combat those symptoms.

“Moving the body is going to compete with that tendency to be sluggish, it’s going to produce good brain chemistry,” said Dr. Bea.

Create social situations

During the wintertime, the cold and lack of regular social interaction can lead folks to become depressed too.

Dr. Bea recommends that folks force themselves to be social and to connect with others, which may help.

“Creating a new social obligation or inviting people into our home so there’s an obligation to entertain, spruce up your house,” said Dr. Bea. “Anything that forces your hand toward activity to being engaged outside of self-awareness would be useful for folks with SAD.”

Use light therapy

Experts believe SAD is triggered by changes in sunlight exposure, so light therapy is often helpful.

About 70 percent of people with SAD see improvement when exposed to a therapy light for about a half hour each day, said Dr. Bea.

The intensity of the light emitted from a therapy light, or Lux, should be 10,000 Lux. Many health professionals prefer to treat SAD with 10,000 Lux for 15 to 30 minutes every morning.


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