If winter's blah days have you feeling down, it might be a milder form of seasonal affective disorder, a still-not-quite-understood depression that affects 25 million Americans, primarily women.
Unlike depression that can crop up with stress, loss or other life events, SAD apparently is tied to repeated sensitivity to seasonal changes between fall and spring.
"You have the people that "¦ it almost seems like they go into a seasonal hibernation, where once winter hits, they just withdraw and they want to just stay in bed," said Oklahoma City psychiatrist Dr. Arthur Rousseau.
He said symptoms include:
" lack of energy,
" increased appetite,
" weight gain,
" feelings of guilt, and
" thoughts of suicide.
Although SAD has been discussed for about 30 years, Rousseau said doctors still are "scratching (their) heads" about its cause.
A range of theories point to:
" seasonal changes in the amount of negative ions in the air, " internal repercussions due to the decrease in sunlight exposure, and
" disruptions in the body's biological clock.
To minimize symptoms, Rousseau said "the idea is to push oneself to get up, to do all those good things that we should do that we don't."
He advised to:
" avoid alcohol and other mood-alternating chemicals,
" avoid eating carbs and sweets,
" exercise, and
" get out in the sunlight.
WebMD recommends limiting caffeine consumption, as well, and focusing on a balanced diet: Think protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, at every meal. "Emily Jerman