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If you experience depression that goes with the change of seasons, take steps to reduce your misery during this time of the year.

Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called winter depression. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by summer.  As many as half a million people in the United States may have winter depression with SAD usually being more common in women than in men.

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. It's likely, as with many mental health conditions, that genetics, age and perhaps most importantly, your body's natural chemical makeup all play a role in developing seasonal affective disorder.  Some of the estimated causes include- circadian rhythm changes, melatonin (which increases during long winter nights) and seratonin (which drops when sunlight is reduced).

Specific symptoms of SAD include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

There is no known way to prevent SAD, but if you are aware of the symptoms, you can take steps to monitor and control this issue. 
Specific methods of treatment available include:
Light Therapy:            Light therapy mimics outdoor light and causes a biochemical change in your brain that lifts your mood, relieving symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. In light therapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you're exposed to very bright light. Light therapy is generally easy to use and has relatively few side effects.
Medications:                        Some people with seasonal affective disorder benefit from treatment with antidepressants or other psychiatric medications.  Some examples include
bupropion extended release tablets (Wellbutrin XL), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and venlafaxine (Effexor).  You must see a physician for proper dosage and monitoring of these medications.
Psychotherapy:            Psychotherapy is another option to treat seasonal affective disorder. Although seasonal affective disorder is suspected to be related to biochemical processes, your mood and behavior also can contribute to symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. You can also learn healthy ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder and manage stress.           
By increasing your awareness of this disorder and how to treat it, you can help avoid a bad case of the winter blues.

For additional details of SAD, please check out this link.