Some of the 6.7% Americans who suffer depression year-round find that their
symptoms get worse in winter.
And countless others have a less severe form, dubbed the "winter
As the days grow shorter, people often find their moods grow darker. Other
symptoms of depression may include:
Getting too much sleep
Taking action early can help you fend off these winter depression symptoms.
Experts believe that SAD stems from a body clock that's out of synch and is
associated with the lack of natural sunlight.
Here’s a winter game plan to keep depression at bay, or lessen its effect,
If You Suffer Winter Depression, Check In With Your Doctor
Start your "game plan" as soon as you notice the first symptoms of
worsening depression, suggests Norman Rosenthal, MD, the leader of the research
team that first identified SAD in 1984 and author of Winter Blues.
Checking in with your doctor is a good first step, he says. That way, you
and your doctor can alter your treatment if you’re already being treated, or
tailor a new treatment plan based on your needs.
Know Your Treatment Options for Depression in Winter
Several treatments have been shown to improve seasonal winter depression.
Among them: light therapy, antidepressantmedication, talk therapy, and the
"People need to mix and match and figure out what works for them,"
says Rosenthal, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University,
Washington, D.C. and a psychiatrist in private practice.
See the Light to Ease Winter Depression Symptoms
Light therapy might be as simple as getting up early and walking outside on
a bright winter morning, Rosenthal tells WebMD. "You can also increase
light in your home," he says "Make one room a sun room."
A technique called "dawn simulation" -- in which a light is
programmed to turn on early in the morning in your bedroom -- can also help,
Light boxes are widely sold over the Internet and exposure to them can help.
When buying one, get advice from your doctor and choose bigger ones -- one that
is at least 1 foot by 1.5 feet, Rosenthal says. These larger boxes have more
supporting research, he says.
Patients sit in front of the light boxes daily for a specified amount of
time. "Using light in the morning for a half hour to an hour is very
effective," says Stephen Josephson, PhD, a psychologist in New York City
and associate professor at Cornell University Medical School and Columbia
University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.