Shaking off the winter blues

It’s called the winter blues.

Short days and dreary weather can be a bit of a downer. But for some people it’s much more serious than that.

There is actually a name for it — Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When it’s cold out, we’re less likely to go outside. Combine that with 4:30 sunset, and it can take a toll on your psyche.

“I get more depressed.”

“The evenings are much longer and that’s hard.”

But sometimes the winter blues are more serious.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression caused by lack of exposure to light.

It’s most common in women and young people, but men who are affected usually have more severe symptoms.

Dr. Luciano Minuzzi is a Psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Hospital: “We don’t know exactly the cause but some people are more susceptible to low light.”

According to Dr. Minuzzi, a lack of sunlight can cause poor concentration, irritability and tiredness. People with sad find it hard to get out of bed: “Also your appetite changes. So you start to have more cravings for carbohydrates or sweet things.”

If you have symptoms like these for two weeks or longer, you may want to visit a doctor.

Some cases may need to be treated with anti-depressants or counseling, or a special therapy using light.

Phototherapy simulates the sun and uses a light that won’t harm your eyes. You need 30 minutes of exposure every morning.

Dr. Minuzzi: “You don’t need to actually just stand in front of the light and look directly into the light. You can actually have your breakfast or read or watch the news.”

Exercise and fresh air are also helpful, even if you don’t feel like going outside.

Most phototherapy lights cost over a hundred dollars. But if you have a prescription from your doctor, some insurance companies will reimburse you.


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