Seasonal Affective Disorder
Carrie Hoarty, M.D. Internal Medicine
Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression that usually occurs in late fall or early winter. The prevalence is higher in women, and less in men. It's much more significant in the northern latitudes, where there is less sun shine. In certain populations and in certain states up to 10 to 20 percent of the population during the winter time does suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
It is has similar manifestations as depression in general so maybe decreased interest in everyday activities, decreased concentration, energy is poor, appetite is up and usually for less healthy foods. Often times, you actually feel like your arms and legs feel like lead. Just everything feels heavy.
How is SAD treated?
People can go online and get these light boxes. You can start with 10 minutes a day, and work up to 45 minutes a day. The other thing people can do is just try to take 15, 20, 30 minutes over the lunch hour and see the sun. A lot of time when we drive to work it's dark and we leave work and its dark, and we work inside where there are no windows. So that light deprivation really affects our serotonin.
If we choose medicines, those medicines help raise the serotonin level. Having an elevated serotonin level helps with sleep, it helps us deal with the stressors of everyday life. And it really can help people get through the winter doldrums. It may be a medicine that you are on in winter, and you're off the other three seasons.