Those “Holiday Blues” Could be Something More


Have you noticed that you feel a little lethargic and moody around the fall and winter months? Is it hard for you to get excited about the upcoming holidays and events? Have you resigned to the fact that you might have a case of the “winter blues”? Have you noticed though, that this happens every year around the same time?

What you’re experiencing might be more than just a Grinch-like attitude. You could be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

According to Mayo Clinic, SAD is a form of depression that surfaces in the fall months and lasts through the winter.  Symptoms vary from one person to the next in severity, but they typically mirror other types of depression. SAD often goes undiagnosed though, because the symptoms don’t last as they do with traditional types of depression. Once the seasons change, SAD typically goes away. SAD is quite common, with around 3 million U.S. cases per year. Those affected by SAD could possibly experience:

  1. Feeling more tired than usual
  2. Irritability
  3. Appetite changes such as increased cravings for carbohydrates
  4. Excess sleep or insomnia
  5. Social withdrawal

What causes SAD?

Research from the Brookdale Hospital and Medical Center in New York City suggests that the main cause of SAD is the lack of sunlight that occurs in the fall and winter months. Shorter days mean less time outside, and Vitamin D has been linked to mood. Other factors play a role though. Someone who has been diagnosed with other types of depression is more susceptible to SAD. Location and family history can also play a role.

In this study, Dr. Jason Hershberger who is the Brookdale Hospital’s chair of psychiatry stated:

“If you are a young woman living far from the equator with a family history of SAD or a previous diagnosis of clinical depression or bipolar disorder, you are most at risk,” Hershberger said in the news release. “Women are found to have more severe symptoms, while young people are often at higher risk than older adults,” he added.

How do you treat SAD?

If you think you might suffer from SAD, the first step is seeking a medical opinion. MAP® can help you find a medical professional to speak with. Treatments for SAD include light therapy as well as some forms of medication, lifestyle changes and/or psychotherapy. Mayo Clinic suggests consultation with a doctor first for all patients, but especially those that suffer from bipolar disorder, as some treatments could cause complications.

Light Therapy

Since the absence of light during the fall and winter months is considered the main cause of SAD, exposure to light provides one of the most safe and effective treatments available. Light therapy is also known as phototherapy. The patient sits in front of a light box that mimics natural sunlight, which is said to alter the brain chemicals associated with mood.

Lifestyle Changes

Getting outside or making the house brighter could combat SAD as well. The cold weather makes people want to stay inside, but a brief walk around the block could make all the difference. Instead of closing up the blinds in the house, keep them open in the daylight hours to bring some light into the house. At work, you could use your break time to take a quick walk around the building. Exercise, which has long been linked to relieve stress and anxiety, could also help manage SAD symptoms.

If you think you might be suffering from SAD, give MAP® a call today. We can help find the right medical professional to help you.

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