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Simple Steps Can Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)



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Simple Steps Can Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

FARMINGTON — For the estimated 25 million Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, these are difficult days: the disorder typically strikes between mid-October and early December, when days become shorter, and can last all winter. To minimize the impact of decreased sunlight on people who may be prone to SAD, a University of Connecticut Health Center expert recommends a common-sense approach for most people.

“People who notice that they are experiencing a few of the symptoms of SAD can take steps to alleviate this problem,” explains Dr Andrew Winokur of the health center.

“For people with more severe symptoms that interfere with their lives and their happiness, we recommend seeking professional help. Professionals are familiar with studies that have repeatedly proven the effectiveness of treating this disorder with light therapy, and in some cases, antidepressant medications,” he added.

Medical professionals can also determine if an individual is experiencing a more serious illness or depression, Dr Winokur stressed.

SAD is not a one-time experience, nor is it the same thing as depression. Rather, it is a collection of symptoms that recur at the same time year after year, when the body’s circadian clock is affected by decreased exposure to light, Dr Winokur explains. Symptoms include the blues; feelings of sadness; decrease in physical activities, lethargy; anxiety and irritability; increased appetite, food cravings, and weight gain; changes in sleep patterns, typically sleeping more and feeling less rested; problems at work; interpersonal problems.

For people experiencing some of these symptoms, Dr Winokur recommends learning more about SAD.

“Increase your exposure to light, especially at the beginning and the end of the day. Try to exercise outdoors just after dawn and/or just before dusk,” he said.

If you cannot exercise outside, be sure to exercise indoors every day.

Control weight. Avoid overloading on carbohydrates that can lead to sluggishness.

Be mindful of regular sleep patterns; avoid oversleeping.

Try to think positively, he said.

For people who suffer from a multitude of SAD symptoms, and find these symptoms to be interfering with their lives and their happiness, Dr Winokur strongly recommends seeking professional help. Individuals can be guided in seeking appropriate light therapy and other steps.

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