SAD is essentially caused by darker days, or a lack of sunshine.

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In many areas of the country, sunny winter days are rare. Rather, rain, snow, ice, wind and gray clouds prevail, leaving at least 10 million Americans with a condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. shares its statistics, including that SAD is four times more common in women than in men.

SAD is essentially caused by darker days, or a lack of sunshine. in August said, “… when people may rise before dawn or not leave their offices until after sunset, these normal rhythms may become disrupted, producing the symptoms of SAD.”

There is also evidence that winter results in a decrease of serotonin, a chemical mainly found in the brain, bowels and blood platelets that contributes to a person’s well-being and happiness.

“As the precursor for melatonin, it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock. … It is thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions and motor, cognitive and autonomic functions,” said in August.

Results, or symptoms, of SAD often mirror those of depression or anxiety.’s list includes these six:
1. Increased sleep
2. Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
3. Weight gain
4. Irritability
5. Interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity)
6. A heavy, leaden feeling in the arms or legs

Ways to combat SAD are many:
- Take advantage of available sunlight.
- Plan physical activities; exercise as much as possible.
- Research and consider a light therapy box.
- Look into purchasing a dawn simulator, which produces light that gradually increases with intensity.
- Learn which essential oils, such as lavender, orange and lemon, help lift moods; use a diffuser.
- Plan a vacation to a sunny, warm destination. encourages a discussion with a physician about whether vitamin D supplements — or even antidepressants — might be necessary, at least during winter.