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Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Blues

Question: Every year when the cold weather starts and the days get shorter, I feel depressed.  I don’t know why this affects me, but I have a hard time staying on my diet and in general feel down about life.  Could this be connected to the winter, and if so what can I do about it?
                                               -Liza Dunsworth, Forest Hills, NY

Answer: Liza, as the winter months approach, this is not an uncommon experience, especially in areas that have colder climates.  Sunlight has a positive effect on mood and therefore the decrease in sunlight that comes with the shorter days of winter can cause depression, lack of energy, and/or a craving for sweets and starchy foods.  The clinical term for this is Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  

The most common treatment for SAD is called “Light Therapy”.  Basically, the individual is exposed to a special kind of light for about 30 minutes a day to make up for the decrease in natural sunlight.  Other treatments that can help include psychotherapy and medication. 

My recommendation is that if you think SAD fits your experience; take the first step of learning more about light therapy. is a website with a lot of useful information on this topic.  As always, when you have concerns about your mental health, it’s a good idea to consult with a mental health professional.

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