Doctors encourage people to take action against seasonal affective disorder during winter months

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PEORIA, Ill. — The short days and cold weather may have people feeling blue this January.

Seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. is a common type of depression. It usually affects people during the winter months.

“The cause of seasonal affective disorder, we don’t really know. There is some suggestion that serotonin, which is one of the neurotransmitters involved in mood is affected. Melatonin, which is our sleep hormone can be upregulated, and so, we think the darkness is what contributes to the depression in the winter months,” said Dr. Alexandra Gens, a third-year psychiatry resident at University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.

Now, doctors are encouraging people to take steps against S.A.D.

Symptoms of s.A.D. Are similar to any other depressive episode. People may retreat, have low energy, poor sleep schedules, and feel hopeless.

Dr. Alexandra Gens says people can get help through medication or other treatments like light therapy or behavior therapy.

“Activating yourself and doing the opposite of what depression tells you to do, which is to withdraw and stay to yourself and kind of stay in bed all day, it’s doing the opposite of that. And that’s actually as effective as medication is. Whatever the activity that you enjoy doing, whether indoors or outdoors is helpful,” said Dr. Gens.

Dr. Gens also says that seasonal affective disorder is more common the further away you are from the equator. Nine percent of people in cold climates have S.A.D. In Florida, it’s just one percent of people.

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