If you’re feeling SAD this winter, you’re not alone.
SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, affects more than 10 million Americans annually. Typically, it starts to get worse around this time of year. The time change means darkness comes sooner, and we’re getting less exposure to sunlight. In turn, that means we’re getting less serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects mood.
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes SAD, but it’s a relatively new diagnosis. It wasn’t until 1981, after The Washington Post published a story called “I should have been a bear,” that the concept started to catch on in medical communities. Now, doctors recommend several steps if you’re starting to feel the winter blues.
First off, recognize the symptoms. They typically include fatigue, social withdraw, weight gain, lack of interest in normal activities and a craving for high-carb foods.
To combat SAD, try to get as much sunlight as possible. (Good news: South Florida is one of the sunniest places in the country.) Phototherapy is also an option, where you sit next to a light therapy box for a certain amount of time each night. However, if the symptoms start getting worse, the best recommendation is to consult a doctor.