As the Northeast is Battered by Blizzards, Risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder Continues

The Northeast suffered with its third Monday blizzard in three weeks, enduring a record-breaking winter that has dumped more than 62 inches of snow on Boston and battered other parts of Massachusetts, along with New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Not only do residents face being trapped in their homes or risking hazardous travel conditions, but they also have a chance of being knocked down by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Dark Winter Nights, Dark Mood

According to WebPsychology, SAD is a disorder most common among people in places with long winter nights. In some people, less daylight appears to cause a drop in serotonin - the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness - or alternations in melatonin levels, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles.

The acronym "SAD" is an apt one that describes one of the disorder's main effects. Those afflicted also face symptoms like hopelessness, increased sleep time, loss of energy and interest in work and other activities, withdrawing socially, eating more and putting on weight. It's most common in men, but women are also at risk. The problem strikes at any age and can start as early as the teen years.

Treatment is Available

SAD is often treated via light therapy with a special lamp that mimics sunlight. You can try self help, too, by making healthy food choices, getting on a regular sleep schedule, exercising, and avoiding illegal drugs and alcohol. If the problem impairs your functioning and you can't seem to beat it, talk to your doctor about medical treatment options.

Support groups for SAD and the depression it causes are available online, which makes them easy to access even if you live in states where you get snowed in. As long as you have internet access, you can reach out to people with the same problem for mutual comfort. You'll find these groups on sites like DailyStrength.org and the Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance.