Doctors Recommend Coping Strategies for Seasonal Affective Disorder

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. -

Clocks are turning back this Sunday, November 4th, which brings attention to a disorder that is known to affect those who battle seasonal depression. 

Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that affects millions of Americans every year. Symptoms usually start from early fall into the winter months, but doctors say there are a few ways to help cope with the disorder.

Health experts explained how to stay active during the darker days as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end.

“It’s important to keep routines," said Suzanne Porreca, director of AtlantiCare Behavorial Health. "It’s important to try to push yourself to eat more healthy. It’s [also] important to get outside when there’s nice weather and get as much sunlight as you can.” 

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Even though setting the clocks back during winter leads to an extra hour of sleep, that added hour of darkness in the evening can be harder to handle for those with seasonal affective disorder.

“Usually it is with people who are predisposed to depressive symptoms," said Porreca. "And when we start to get less sunlight and the weather starts to get gloomy, people who have it get more lethargic.” 

Porreca said other symptoms include overeating, irritability, and withdrawing from every day activities.

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Dr. Jeffrey Aronowitz, of Jefferson Health in New Jersey and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rowan SOM, said there are many contributing factors to seasonal affective disorder.

"There's an increase in the hormone melatonin," said Aronowitz. "[And there's] also a decrease in the hormone serotonin and a decrease of Vitamin D levels.” 

Aronowitz says psychotherapy, medication management, and light therapy are some forms of treatment that health care providers will recommend.

Our experts said that those who show any signs of seasonal affective disorder are encouraged to contact a primary care provider.

To learn more about seasonal affective disorder, visit nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml.

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