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Experts discuss dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder amid gloomy weather

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- While the snow has been relatively light this winter, it's also been fairly gloomy outside; not much in the way of sunlight.

That could lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a type of depression that changes with the seasons. SAD is most common in the fall and winter but there are other factors at play as well.

"We're missing the sunshine to get out and get a little bit more active," said Stewartville resident Theresa Shoemaker. "Taking the dog for a walk or whatever, you don't do as much of that on a cold gloomy day."

The gray skies aren't doing anyone any favors this time of year. "No," said Zumbro Valley Health Center Clinical Director Heather Geerts. "The day to day, is really why we are having this conversation."

With the limited amount of sunshine this time of year, SAD can be more prominent.

"I just remind folks to connect with your family and friends and talk and have have those joyful interactions and the sun will come," said Rochester resident Guy Finne.

"I just work and sleep," said Eyota resident Dawn Bothun. "I do use my sun lamp at night and it does help. It helps with depression a lot and if you're missing your vitamin D."

Symptoms of SAD often mimic those of depression, including changes in eating or sleeping habits, increase in irritability or moodiness, and lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

"The biggest indicator that it's causing an issue is if it starts impacting your functioning," said Gerrts. "Right? So you're starting to miss school, you're starting to miss work, you're canceling plans with friends."

If you notice that these symptoms are playing a role in your life, it's important to seek help.

"Reach out to family practitioner, reach out to a therapist, come in [to Zumbro Valley Heath Center]," said Geerts. "A lot of times it doesn't mean long term/lifelong treatment. It might be helping you gather those tools that you need in order to manage the symptoms when you feel them."

While anyone is susceptible to SAD, it's more frequent in people with a family history of depression or already diagnosed.

"I think that the biggest and most important thing is, it's okay to ask for help," said Geerts. "There are resources out there to help you and it doesn't mean something is wrong with you or it's something abnormal. It's completely normal."

Taking a mid-winter vacation to someplace sunny can help, almost like light therapy. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, psychotherapy, and medication. If you're interested in seeking help or additional resources, click here.

Sarah Gannon

Sarah Gannon

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