seasonal affective disorder

Symptoms and Treatment for Seasonal Depression

NBC Universal, Inc.

January is a peak time of year when people face Seasonal Affective Disorder, often referred to as seasonal depression.

Dr. Neha Jain, the medical director of mood and anxiety disorders at UConn Health, said some of the tell-tale signs of SAD are changes in your:

  • Energy - such as feeling fatigued
  • Mood - feeling sad, depressed, or worthless
  • Sleep - sleeping too much
  • Appetite - eating more and craving carbohydrates

If you are occasionally experiencing some of these symptoms, Dr. Jain recommends you expose yourself to light, preferably early in the morning, by walking outside or setting your desk up near a sunny window. Dr. Jain also suggests you maintain a consistent sleep schedule and try and get regular aerobic exercise.

If the symptoms persist and prevent you from functioning then it is time to see a doctor.

“If there are certain roles in your family, in society and community and you feel that you’re having trouble keeping up with those roles then that’s a bigger red flag. Also, if symptoms persist -- if it’s like, this comes and goes versus it’s been days or weeks and I feel the same way, -- then that’s another red flag,” said Dr. Jain.

One of the main treatments doctors recommend is buying a light box and using it early in the mornings while you’re getting ready for your day.

Yale’s Winter Depression Research Clinic tested 24 light boxes on the market, all claiming to produce 10,000 lux, which is the recommendation. Researchers found only a handful fit their criteria.

“I would suggest buying one that's a fair size, cost about $100, up to several hundred dollars. But don't forget that you buy this once, it'll last for decades,” said Dr. Paul Desan, the director of the Winter Depression Research Clinic at Yale New Haven Health. “These devices change some people's lives. Some people have serious problems with how they feel in the winter, some patients have come in and said, 'my life shuts down for months every year.' And we don't need to use medications. We don't need to use any fancy treatment. We use bright light devices.”

Reach out to your doctor if you’re feeling persistent symptoms of depression.

Contact Us