Do You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

clockclockYou're depressed, moody and just can't get yourself out of bed.

It's not time for a visit from your monthly friend, things are great at work and your boyfriend is behaving. So what's going on?

Winter Blues

You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that strikes when Old Man Winter rears his ugly head. SAD affects women more than men, and it can start in the teens or early adulthood. People who live in areas where winter is long and days are short are at greater risk, as are those that have a family history of SAD. Thanks, Mom!

It's rare, but some people even experience SAD in the spring and early summer. (And no, we're not referring to the sinking feeling you get when you don a bikini for the first time in eight months.)

sunsunSAD Symptoms

Symptoms of SAD are very similar to those of depression, but they usually build up slowly in the fall and winter months. Common symptoms include:

- Feeling sad, grumpy or anxious
- A constant craving for carbs (and, not suprisingly, weight gain)
- Being tired during the day even after 9-10 hours of sleep
- Losing interest in your usual activities
- Wanting to be alone

What Causes SAD?

The answer is that no one really knows. The prevailing theory is that lack of sunlight affects your circadian rhythms, as well as your level of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Your hormones, sleep-wake cycle and melatonin levels are all affected by winter's longer nights and gray skies.

runrunI Want to be Happy

The good news for SAD sufferers is that a number of treatments can help banish the blues. One easy option is light treatment, which entails sitting in front of a special light box that mimics outdoor light. The only downside to light therapy is that you have to do it every single day for the entire winter season to prevent the depression from returning. Other treatments for SAD include antidepressants, counseling and morning exercise. What else can you do? Eat right, exercise and try to avoid happy hour -- alcohol and other "downers" can send SAD sufferers even further down the depression bunny hole.

SAD can be a serious disorder, so make sure to visit your doc if you can't kick the winter blues with some simple behavioral/lifestyle changes.

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