Crossposted from Medical Center of McKinney:
Seasonal affective disorder, which is also referred to as SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of depression and is thought to be associated with seasonal variations in light. Seasonal affective disorder was originally identified and named in the 1980s.
Approximately half a million people in the United States experience SAD. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder will typically feel the worst during the colder winter months when the days are shortest and the sun sets early. Scientists believe that exposure to light is key to alleviating the symptoms associated with SAD.
For individuals with only mild symptoms of SAD, increasing their time outdoors or taking daily walks during sunlight hours (usually an hour of sunlight per day) is enough to keep their mood stable. For others, who experience more extreme “wintertime depression,” phototherapy may be prescribed as treatment. Phototherapy typically involves having patients with SAD sit facing a “light box” filled with fluorescent bulbs of up to 10,000 lux. This is done through 30-minute sessions during the winter months.
Seasonal affective disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. Treatment recommendations can vary, depending on an individual patient’s symptoms and the severity of the case. It is important to get a thorough assessment to ensure an accurate diagnosis.