Winter depression: Shed some light on this dark mood

Published: October, 2004

Boston , MA —As winter approaches, some will begin to feel sluggish and gloomy. Winter depression accounts for about 10% of cases of major depression. The November issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter examines this condition, referred to as seasonal affective disorder, and explores whether a little bright light can alter this dark mood.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined as depression that occurs repeatedly at the same time of year, usually starting in the fall and ending in the spring. People with SAD are sad, tired, anxious, irritable, unable to concentrate, and inclined to avoid friends and social activities. But often they have physical symptoms as well, such as overeating and excessive sleep. Studies suggest that SAD runs in families. Additionally, seasonal depression is thought to be more common and longer lasting at high latitudes, so it appears to also stem from changes in the length of the day.

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