Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

A psychologist offers tips on how to cope with seasonal affective disorder, which can often occur around the same time we turn back the clock.

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CLEVELAND — On Sunday, we’ll ‘fall back’ an hour and if you’ve noticed your mood starting to change, you’re not alone.

Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist with Cleveland Clinic said some people may start to experience seasonal affective disorder this time of year.

“Seasonal affective disorder is caused by the change in light and your circadian rhythms,” she explained. “When there are short, cold, dark days, we experience less sunlight. This interrupts the release of serotonin and melatonin, which impact our sleep and our mood. There is also a drop in vitamin D because we get vitamin D from the sunlight.”

Dr. Albers said a person may feel sad, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, lack energy, have difficulty sleeping and experience a change in diet.

The good news is there are ways to help cope with these symptoms.

According to Dr. Albers, one of the easiest things you can do is spend more time outdoors, which she knows is hard to do in colder weather. However, exposure to the sun can make a big difference and boost your vitamin D levels.
You could even sit near a window with the shades open for a few minutes each day.

A light therapy lamp is another option.

“This is a lamp that you put on your table for 20 minutes in the morning and it helps to mimic some of that sunlight, which can produce a lot of the feel good chemicals in the brain that we absorb from the sunlight,” she said.

If symptoms aren’t improving with time or seem to be getting worse, Dr. Albers recommends seeking the help of a mental health professional.

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