Wednesday, December 05, 2012
ROCHESTER, Minn. — As winter begins, temperatures drop and hours of daylight fade, it's not uncommon for people to begin feeling sluggish, moody or stuck in a funk. Those symptoms are typical of someone experiencing seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter. As many as 1 in 5 Americans have SAD, and 75 percent are women, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
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Symptoms include sleeping too much, overeating, loss of energy, social withdrawal and difficulty concentrating. People in northern climates are more likely to experience SAD. While many people experience some elements of SAD, Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Mark Frye, M.D., says you should seek professional help if your symptoms begin to affect your ability to perform at work or take a toll on your personal relationships. Seeking help is particularly important if you begin to feel hopeless or have thoughts of self-harm, he says.
Dr. Frye offers these tips to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the winter:
What causes SAD? Sunlight enters the brain through the eyes, stimulating the production of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, that supports nerve cell functioning, including mood. Less light results in lower serotonin levels. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, which promotes sleep. It's the combination of less serotonin and increased amounts of melatonin that causes SAD.
"There are many people who experience winter blues. However, there are those who are experiencing more serious symptoms," says William Weggel, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Health System psychiatrist who sees patients in Wisconsin. "The good news is that in most cases, we are able to find a treatment plan to help the patient through the winter months."
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