By Stephanie Stahl


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Are you sick of all the bad weather? More is on the way, and it could be impacting your health.

Welcome to the winter blues — cold, ugly, dark days. They’ve seemed endless, and doctors say, for some people, the lack of sunshine can trigger potentially dangerous mental health issues.

It’s been a winter of bad weather around Philadelphia, especially nasty weekends, and more is on the way.

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The lack of sunshine in the winter increases the risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — a form of depression.

“In the winter and fall months, some people are prone to have depression,” psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Okpaku said.

While the exact causes of SAD is unknown, the reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin — a brain chemical that influences mood — and melatonin — a chemical which regulates sleep and mood.

“The further you are away from the equator, the more likely you’re going to have Seasonal Affective Disorder,” Dr. Okpaku said.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are:

  • feeling blue or depressed
  • fatigue, low energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • appetite, weight changes
  • lack of interest

SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than men and it’s also more likely to impact younger adults, even children.

For mild cases, spending some time outside everyday, even when it’s cloudy, will help.

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For more serious cases of SAD, traditional anti-depressants can be helpful, along with therapy.

And there’s light therapy: a special lamp or device that produces an intense kind of natural light.

Exercise and getting enough sleep are also important.

Stephanie Stahl