Seasonal depression prominent in winter months

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It is the middle of the winter and we live in the Northeast, so we expect days like today. But, for people with seasonal affective disorder, spring just can not get here fast enough.

With more gray skies and gloomy, snowy days in the forecast, the shortest month of year becomes even tougher to handle.

“People might be feeling just about at their worst about now,” said Dr. Hank Schwartz, Chief of Psychiatry at Hartford Hospital.

Dr. Schwartz is talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. This is a form of depression that generally begins setting in during the fall, as daylight hours shorten.

“People feel a depressed mood, have a sleep disturbance.  They might find themselves sleeping more than usual, have an appetite suppression, lost their appetite, feeling of hopelessness,” said Dr. Schwartz.

He even says that some people are more vulnerable than others.

“People who have depressive disorders to begin with tend to be the most vulnerable.  They may have these episodes. In addition to episodes of depression they’ve had in other times of the year.  People have it in the family,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Still, Dr. Schwartz says it can be difficult to diagnose.

“You actually have to have a depression that comes on in the fall for at least two years in a row, in order to qualify for the diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Treatment options for SAD include medication, psychotherapy and phototherapy (exposure to doses of bright light). However, there are also effective prevention measures.

medication Seasonal depression prominent in winter months

“If you prepare for the episode as we’re getting to fall and that might mean going back to an anti-depressant before you feel depressed.  That might mean starting light therapy or phototherapy before you feel depressed,” said Dr. Schwartz.

With more sunlight and spring nearly in sight, better and brighter days  are ahead.

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