By Cristina Mestre
|A view of the Allegheny River during this week's latest blast of arctic air.|
percent of U.S. adults suffer from seasonal mood changes - the "winter blues" - with 6 percent suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
be related to the shortened length of daylight and the longer periods of
darkness we experience in the winter. Also, having a pre-existing risk for
depression, plus added stressors from seasonal job loss or holidays, can
contribute to a depressed mood.
men are diagnosed with SAD than women, who make up 60 to 90 percent of SAD
patients. SAD sufferers often eat and sleep more, feel unmotivated, suffer from
reduced function, and exhibit hibernation-like behaviors such as avoiding the
outside or social activities.
Overall, fewer than 1 percent of Americans have SAD. For patients who have bipolar
disorder, which is characterized by distinct periods of severe mood swings from
mania to depression, as many as
20 percent can suffer from seasonal depression.
“Normally, getting outside for a walk and being active,
especially in the mornings when there is increased light, can be a tremendous
help in lifting our mood,” said Dr. Sit. “But unfortunately, that’s not always safe to do when the weather is as
cold as it is now.”
So what can we do to lift our moods when going outside isn’t an option?
Some suggestions from Dr. Sit include:
in ANY kind of physical activity – whether it’s doing lunges in your living
room in front of the TV, or going for a long walk with friends at the mall, or
trying a new exercise class like spinning or yoga. Here in Pittsburgh, she notes, you can try a
local tradition of climbing up the Cathedral of Learning
steps for a great workout! But before heading out to strenuous activities like climbing many steps, it is advisable
to see your medical doctor first for a check-up and to make sure this kind of
activity is safe for you.
purchasing a light box. While antidepressants and
increased exercise may help in some cases, there is an alternative treatment
that is proving extremely effective: light therapy. Research has shown that
light therapy, by using a light box, can be used not just for SAD, but also for
treating non-seasonal mood disorders (major depressive disorder or depression
in pregnancy), the effects of jet lag or shift work, and bulimia nervosa. Light
boxes should only be used with clinical supervision. Dr. Sit notes that there still are unknowns about the effects of light therapy for bipolar
disorder and she is currently conducting studies on
light therapy for the treatment of bipolar depression. For more information, Dr. Sit and her study
team can be reached at 1-800-436-2461 or 412-246-5346, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. More information on Dr. Sit's research is also available here.
- Eat a
healthy diet, full of fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Sit notes that a healthy diet can help reduce stress and lift our moods.
Labels: Dorothy Sit, seasonal affective disorder, weather, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC