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Johns Hopkins Health - A SAD Time of the Year

Winter 2010
Issue No. 7

A SAD Time of the Year

Date: January 24, 2010

a woman wearing a grey and white hat and a grey and white scarf, eyes cast downward, looking sad

For nearly half a million Americans, wintertime doesn’t necessarily mean chestnuts roasting by the open fire. Instead, it brings ongoing depression, fatigue and irritability, also called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Though the precise cause isn’t known, SAD is likely the result of changes in the amount of daylight. It usually begins in the fall and may last through the winter months. And, although symptoms are clues, not everyone has the same ones. Besides being depressed and feeling fatigued and irritable, you might have appetite changes and difficulty concentrating.

“People who are diagnosed with SAD usually don’t have severe depression,” says psychiatrist David Neubauer, M.D. “But the fact that it may last several months can mean significant impairment.”

For most people, a few simple steps can help, such as making their home sunnier and brighter, getting outdoors on sunny days, exercising, getting plenty of rest and eating a balanced diet.

If more sun and light exposure don’t help, Neubauer recommends talking to your doctor. “If you’re down for days at a time, can’t seem to get motivated or don’t enjoy normal activities, it’s time for some medical advice,” he says.

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