PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Doctors are expecting to see an increase in people suffering from seasonal depression now that it’s getting darker earlier. It happens this time every year right after the clocks move back an hour and people are susceptible to feeling sluggish and grumpy.
Moving the clocks back an hour with the end of Daylight Saving Time means the sun rises and sets an hour earlier. With less light, there is an increase in seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which is also known as the winter blues.
“People start to notice that the days are getting shorter, it’s getting darker. They may have some anticipation and think, ‘I really struggle during these months,’” therapist Scott Bea said.
SAD is four times more common in women and younger people and is believed to be caused by hormonal fluctuations. These fluctuations are sparked by the lack of sunlight which causes the brain to make less serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood.
Signs of seasonal depression include:
- Low motivation
- Impaired functioning
- Feeling of dread
The main treatment for SAD is light therapy which can be very effective. Special lights mimic natural outdoor light and because people tend to hibernate in the winter, doctors say socializing and exercise can also be helpful.
“Setting up those social opportunities, or a new obligation that’s going to put you in contact with people would be great, or a way to move your body, to renew a gym membership and really use it,” Bea said.
For more severe cases of seasonal affective disorder, doctors recommend medications, mainly anti-depressants and therapy.
Keeping your home bright and sunny can help reduce seasonal affective disorder and doctors say it’s especially important to be exposed to sunlight within two hours of waking up.
Spending a little extra time outside is also helpful.