The SAD Story: Symptoms and Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you get that yearly case of the “winter blues,” you don’t have to tough it out alone. We have expert tips and an upcoming free lecture to help you take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

Do the abbreviated days of winter give you the blues?  These feelings may be caused by your hormones.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs when the days are shorter and we have less exposure to outside light, which reduces serotonin levels in our bodies. This feel-good hormone calms and soothes us; when we’re deficient in serotonin, we may feel fatigued, crave carbs and are more prone to gain weight.

Symptoms of SAD

If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of SAD or have been diagnosed, northern Nevada’s winter months can feel excruciating. Here are some coping strategies that can help:

  1. Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it’s cloudy. Daylight even when it’s overcast is still beneficial.
  2. Begin using a light box in the fall, even before you feel the effects of SAD. The light box shines a full-spectrum bright light indirectly into your eyes from about 2 feet away for 10 to 15 minutes per day. You can increase this exposure up to 45 minutes, depending on your response.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet, including sufficient vitamins and minerals as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This will energize you even if your body craves sweets and breads.
  4. Commit to exercising 30 minutes daily, three days a week.
  5. Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. Social support is extremely important for those with mood disorders, especially during winter.

How to Treat SAD

SAD is a treatable condition, but experts urge anyone who is experiencing depression to see their medical provider for a thorough assessment. 

If you would like to learn more, Renown is hosting a seasonal depression lecture with Gunjan Lehil, MD, from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Jan. 25 in the Mack Auditorium of Renown Regional Medical Center. To RSVP for this free lecture, please call 775-982-5400 or visit renown.org/events.

Additionally, therapy can help with the treatment for SAD. A therapist can educate you about the condition and offer coping mechanisms and tips to prevent future occurrences. To request an appointment or explore therapy options, visit Renown Behavioral Health.

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