Feelings of ´SAD´ness Afflict Many During Winter Months

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | 06:00pm

NASHVILLE — The winter season may bring about cold temperatures, dreary days and feelings of depression for many Tennesseans. These feelings may be caused by a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which tends to occur more often in the winter months, especially January and February.

SAD is a mood disorder that follows a seasonal pattern related to variations in sunlight. Along with feelings of depression, symptoms include change in appetite, excessive need for sleep, cravings for sugary and/or starchy foods and avoidance of social situations. It is now estimated that 4-6% of the population suffers from SAD, and it is four times more common in women than in men. Younger persons are more likely to suffer from SAD, as well.

After carefully being diagnosed with SAD, a person can then explore their treatment options. Health care professionals may recommend one of several treatments including:

Increased Light Exposure. Symptoms of SAD are often triggered by a lack of exposure to light and tend to drastically decrease, and even go away completely, when light increases.

Light therapy. Stronger symptoms of SAD may be treated with light therapy, also known as phototherapy, which involves the use of a special light that simulates daylight.

Medications. Medications, such as antidepressants, may be prescribed for individuals with SAD depending on the severity of the symptoms.

“If you are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder there are steps you can take to help cope with the symptoms,” stated Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities’ (TDMHDD) Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “First and foremost follow your doctor’s recommendations, get plenty of exercise, maintain proper nutrition and try and spend more time with family and friends to take your mind off things.”

For more information on SAD, including educational materials, or additional mental health information, please contact TDMHDD’s Office of Public Information and Education at (615) 253-4812 or visit www.state.tn.us/mental.

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