Dr. Mark Miller

Has the change of seasons left you feeling depressed, fatigued, and struggling to go about your daily routine? If you’ve noticed a drastic, lasting change in your mood since winter arrived, talk with your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a severe form of the winter blues. WVU Medicine psychiatrist Mark Miller, MD, discusses SAD.

What is SAD?
SAD is a recurrent winter depression that usually begins in October or November and subsides in March or April. Anyone can get SAD, but it’s more common in women and people who live in areas where winter daylight hours are very short.

What causes this disorder?
Experts have not pinpointed an exact cause of SAD, but they think it involves a lack of sunlight exposure, which can cause problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.

What are the symptoms?
If you have SAD, you may feel moody, hopeless, or anxious. You may oversleep but not feel rested. Decreased sexual interest and decreased socialization can occur. You may want to eat more, craving carbohydrates like potatoes and bread, and experience weight gain.

How do I know if I have SAD or another form of depression?
It can be difficult, at times, to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression because many of the symptoms are the same. If you have an existing mental health condition, you may experience a seasonal worsening of symptoms. A mental health assessment performed by a behavioral medicine provider can help assess your situation.

What is the treatment for SAD?
Therapies for SAD include antidepressants, psychotherapy (talk therapy), light therapy, or a combination of treatments. Light therapy uses different types of high-intensity light boxes or lamps that mimic outdoor light and may ease the symptoms of SAD. Be sure to consult with your mental health provider to determine which light therapy box best suits your needs.

Are you concerned about seasonal affective disorder? Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE