Seasonal affective disorder affects millions of Americas as days get shorter and colder

INDIANAPOLIS — With the end of Daylight Saving Time, we’re all now getting used to the fact that it’s getting darker sooner, while also ushering in colder weather and winter.

But for close to 13 million people, that transition can become a daunting experience.

Every year about 5% of adults are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is described as depression symptoms that occur in specific times of the year with full remission in other seasons. During the colder months is when Seasonal Affective Disorder is typically most prevalent.

Symptoms can include sadness, anxiety, weight changes, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and loss of sleep among others.

Kendra Thomas, an asst. professor of psychology at The University of Indianapolis says often times Seasonal Affective can be hard to recognize, with some people experiencing mild symptoms, but others experiencing effects that are much more severe.

“Sometimes it can manifest as irritability. So, if that’s not in your mindset, if you don’t think that can be a symptom, then you may not realize that increased irritability may be related to the changing seasons in the amount of light exposure and how that changes some of our patterns of sleep and appetite and the biological rhythms of our bodies,” Thomas said.

There are things that can be done to help mitigate SAD. Bright light therapy is often used to help, getting plenty of exercise, healthy eating, increasing exposure to natural light can also yield positive results. Thomas adds the first step for someone who feels like they are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder is to seek help.

“These are not things that we can just snap out of. They are real changes that are tied to our biology tied to our rhythms, tied to our environment and exposure to light, where we live, our climate. And so, there’s definitely a reason to look into it and seek help, change something and adopt because the seasons last long enough in Indiana,” Thomas said.

Thomas adds it’s also important for those experiencing SAD to remember they are not alone. And that there is help and solutions available.

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