Winter Blues… Or Seasonal Affective Disorder?

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Leaving behind the relaxation and family time of the holiday season can be tough. As life returns to normal and you ring in the new year, it’s not uncommon to feel a touch of “winter blues.” But feeling down may also be a sign of something much more serious – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that affects four to six percent of the population. It seems to peak around January and February, and scientists believe it’s triggered by the reduced sunlight and shorter days of winter. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

Food cravings / weight gain

Many of us pick up a few extra pounds during the holidays (et tu, eggnog and pie?). But carb cravings – and resultant weight gain – may also be your brain’s coping mechanism against SAD.

Less interest in normal activities

Are you a book junkie who can’t be bothered to turn the page? A diehard hang-glider who’d rather stay on the ground? Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy is a classic sign of SAD and other types of depression.

Fatigue and sleepiness

People with SAD typically have disrupted sleep cycles. This might mean that you’re sleeping more than ever, but still feeling drowsy during the day.

Social withdrawal

Too much time cooped up with the family can make anyone crave a little privacy. But if you find yourself pulling away from loved ones and spending more time alone, this may be a warning sign.

Concerned that you may have SAD? Please talk to a psychiatrist or your primary care doctor. There are 359 days until 2014 – let’s make them happy and healthy!

Image: winter blues, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Shazz Mack’s photostream.

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