News Release

October 31, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Feeling Blah or Victim of SAD?

Return to Standard Time Can Trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, isn’t just feelings of malaise brought on by shorter daylight hours and colder weather; it’s a depressive disorder that affects about 500,000 people in the U.S. alone.

Sometimes referred to as winter depression, SAD is much more than just feeling blue and out of sorts, said Andrew Winokur, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Psychiatry at the UConn Health Center. “SAD is not a one-time experience. It’s a cyclic event that occurs year after year,” he explained. “The body’s circadian rhythm is affected by the decreased exposure to light. For those diagnosed with SAD, the time change can act like a trigger and bring on feelings of sadness, sluggishness, fatigue, cravings for sweets and starches, and sleep problems.”

Although there is no cure for SAD, said Dr. Winokur, there are treatments, including light therapy, anti-depression medications, and psychotherapy. For those experiencing mild or few SAD symptoms, he offers these simple tips:

  • Increase your exposure to light, especially at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Exercise, preferably outdoors, but any exercise, indoors or out, will be beneficial.
  • Take up an outdoor winter sport or activity.
  • Avoid foods high in carbohydrates and sugar that can lead to lethargy.
  • Keep to regular sleep habits and avoid over-sleeping.
  • Try to focus on positive thoughts.
  • Maintain usual level of social activity.
  • If possible, schedule a vacation in a warm, sunny climate.

“Most people feel down sometimes, but if you’re feeling low day-after-day and not enjoying life, see your doctor,” said Dr. Winokur.

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