Beat the Winter Blahs

Sure, you get moody when the weather turns colder. But is the change severe enough to be classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder? Here's the scoop on SAD.

  • December makes you depressed. "The defining feature of SAD is that you feel fine most of the year, but once fall or early winter hits, you go into a slump," explains Andrew Winokur, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
  • Lack of light is the culprit. Experts believe that the less light you're exposed to, the more melatonin your body secretes. At high levels, this sleep hormone can cause depression. Those who live in the darkest and coldest parts of the country, such as New England, are affected most.
  • You can't stop eating. Many SAD sufferers notice an increase in appetite and a craving for carbs. Other symptoms include anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and sleepiness.
  • Little changes make a big difference. To boost your mood, brighten up your home by opening the curtains and turning on more lights, keep your internal clock on cue by waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, and get out in the sun. Exercising regularly will also increase your energy level.
  • You may need help. If you suffer from these episodes for two consecutive winters—and nothing makes you feel better—talk to your doctor. He may recommend light therapy or prescribe an antidepressant.

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the December 2004 issue of Parents magazine.

    All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.