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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted by on December 18th, 2017 Posted in: Health Literacy/Consumer Health


Gray and cloudy skies are not unusual in the Pacific Northwest. But, as the days become shorter and the dark starts setting in about mid-afternoon, it is easy to be less energized and feel more like hibernating. This is not unusual. However, for those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), other more intense symptoms may appear such as:

  • sadness   
  • gloomy outlook
  • sadness
  • gloomy outlook
  • feeling hopeless, worthless, or irritable
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • low energy
  • difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
  • thoughts of death or even suicide

The causes of SAD are unknown but it does tend to occur more often in women, in young people, those who live further from the equator, and in individuals whose family members (or themselves) have a history of depression.

It is strongly advised not to self diagnose but rather make an appointment to see a psychiatrist or other qualified health professional.

Treatment for SAD varies among individuals. Most often, light therapy is all that is needed. However, others require antidepressant medications or need to see a psychiatrist or other qualified health professional for talk therapy or a combination of therapies. Review all treatment options and discuss them with your health care professional.

Looking for a light therapy lamp or box?  First, talk with your physician because several factors need to be considered before selecting and using a light therapy box. Keep in mind that light therapy boxes are not approved or regulated by the FDA so look for ones that are made specifically for SAD and include protective features. The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions when looking for a light therapy box:

The light box should:

  • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light (lux is a measure of light intensity but the product should include this information)
  • Emit as little UV light as possible

Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder in MedlinePlus.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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