Effects of seasonal affective disorder can last up to six months

The disorder is generally more common in women and in those older than 20 years old, according to Dr. Shannon Markegard.

We all know that feeling when the weather starts to change and we can feel our moods make a shift as well.

For some people this can be a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Dr. Shannon Markegard said many of her patients she sees who suffer from SAD start complaining of symptoms as early as October.

Markegard is a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Valley Medical Center’s Maple Valley Clinic.

She said those symptoms can include being tired, having low motivation, gaining weight or just being sad.

Markegard added these symptoms are very similar to symptoms of depression.

Depression worsens during the holiday months, Markegard said. However, SAD is a weather-based depression.

Before she can be sure her patients are suffering from SAD, Markegard said she checks with them to see if there is anything in their life — finances, career, marriage — that may be impacting their mood.

She said many of her patients that suffer from SAD do not typically have depression symptoms.

For people affected by SAD, their symptoms can last for four to six months, she said.

“SAD is more common the further north you go,” she said. “It is seven times more common in Washington than in Florida.”

She added SAD is generally more common in women and in those older than 20 years old.

To treat her patients, Markegard said she likes to get down to the basics first.

She recommends her patients get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and take vitamin D supplements.

Markegard recommends her patients do these things year round but they are even “more important during winter months,” she said.

There are other treatments that patients with SAD can do to help their symptoms.

One is light therapy, she said. HappyLight is a light that emulates natural daylight, helping improve mood, energy and concentration. To read about HappyLight therapy, visit https://verilux.com/store/happylight-therapy-lamps.

Two other treatments that providers and their patients may use to treatment symptoms of SAD are counseling and medication.

Markegard said her patients tend to restart and see their symptoms improve in May and June when the days start getting longer.

Those who suffer from SAD know it’s coming and are able to plan for it, Markegard said.

“They know it is coming,” she said. “And that it will go away when summer starts.”

She said her patients that are prepared for SAD symptoms to hit them as the weather changes, they start sleeping better or exercising more or they come in sooner to see her.

She said she wants people to “know this is real,” she said. “It is a real condition and can be real bothersome for people.”

Markegard suggested people who feel like they may have symptoms similar to SAD should reach out to their providers and see what treatments would work best for them.

Reach Editor Sarah Brenden at sbrenden@rentonreporter.com or 425-336-4959.

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