Cold, snow can cause seasonal affective disorder

Light therapy, medications can help

INDIANAPOLIS - The long winter has taken a toll and tested the patience of millions of Americans, but for some, the winter blues can become severe.

The lack of sunshine and cold temperatures can result in depression and thoughts of suicide in a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Experts with American Family Physician said about four to six percent of people suffer from the condition, primarily through the winter months, and it is four times more common in women than men.

This winter has been one of the snowiest on record with 45 inches so far. Since Jan. 1, the temperature has fallen below zero 13 times.

"So that keeps people indoors and prevents them from going about their daily activities. Throw in the snow and certainly it brings people down because it seems like the winter that won't end," StormTeam 6 meteorologist Todd Klaassen said.

Mental health professionals said SAD is under-reported and under-diagnosed.

"Because it sometimes hides itself in the fact that most of us are a little frustrated with the cold weather and the lack of sunlight, but we have to differentiate which people have a severe case of it and which don't," Kimble Richardson with Community Health Network said.

Experts said anyone who is showing symptoms should speak with a doctor. Light therapy and medications can often help.

Help is available for anyone with thoughts of suicide. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Follow Chris Proffitt on Twitter: @chrisproffitt

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