Harvard Health Letter

A SAD story: Seasonal affective disorder

Light therapy and antidepressants help people who get depressed during the winter.

The gloom of winter seems to get inside some people, the dark affecting their mood as well as their days. In the late 1990s, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognized these winter blues as seasonal affective disorder, a name that seems to have been coined with its acronym, SAD, very much in mind.

Light therapy, which involves sitting in front of bright, artificial light for a half an hour or so each day, lifts the mood of some people who suffer from the condition. But antidepressant medications may work just as well. There's also evidence, some of it anecdotal, that people with SAD will feel better if they get outside more, open up window shades, brighten up their indoor living spaces — in sum, take steps to increase their exposure to light over all.

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