Feeling SAD? How to Know if You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine

As the weather turns cold and gray and those outdoor happy hours are officially over, it's normal to feel a bit blue. It's dark when you get home from work and you just feel blah.

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For most of us, this dull sadness is just a passing feeling. However, for about 20 percent of people, seasonal depression is serious enough to warrant an official diagnosis: Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. SAD).

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According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, you may have SAD if any of the following symptoms come and go at the same time each year:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

If these symptoms start interfering with your work or your ability to go about your day, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional.

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According to Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a sleep and fatigue expert and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, serotonin deficiency has been suggested as a possible cause of SAD. Anti-depressants may help raise serotonin levels in some cases, but for others, beating the blues may be a matter of simply exposing yourself to more light throughout the day.

Teitelbaum recommends placing a 10,000-lux light box (here's a good one) at a 45-degree angle to your face, about 18 inches away. Spend 30 to 45 minutes in front of the box every morning from September through May. And, in general, turn it on anytime you feel like you could use a light "fix." Imagine you're on the beach, taking the day off, feeling warm and sun-kissed.

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If you have trouble waking up in the morning, attach a bright-light bedside table lamp to a timer and program it to turn on two hours before your alarm, Teitelbaum suggests.
Do you get the winter blues? How do you lift your spirits?

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Photo Credit: WWD