Seasonal affective disorder causes depression during cold, dark seasons

WICHITA, Kan. - Pat Handley sells vegan hotdogs at the Pop-Up Park in downtown Wichita no matter the temperature. He says he notices a difference in his customers in the winter.

"People are really bundled up. They don't like to spend as much time waiting for their food," Handley says.

Handley says his secret is wearing layers and burning a propane heater.

The cold is a factor for sure. We don't like it for sure but it's something that you just have to deal with."

But for some people, the cold is deeper than the skin.

"You start seeing a spike in seasonal affective as soon as fall hits," says Mary Jones, President and CEO of South-Central Kansas Mental Health Association. "In fact, this week is a good example of how people start to feel groggy, more lethargic. They haven't adjusted as well, and that can typically be the onset of seasonal affective disorder."

Jones says cold, dark days cause season affective disorder, or "S.A.D.", for 15 to 20 percent of people.

"Sad in particular impacts your circadian rhythm and it impacts your serotonin levels and your melatonin levels, and all of those things impact ones ability to really get a good night's sleep," Jones says.

Signs and symptoms of depressive disorders include difficulty concentrating, low mood, lack of energy and changes in eating habits.

Then, see a doctor for treatment. Jones says once you know you have seasonal affective disorder, start treatment early the next year to prevent it.

"I might know in late summer and early fall, when I haven't had my symptoms start yet, I'm already working a treatment plan to get ready for when that depression really hits," Jones says.

She says light therapy and cognitive behavior therapy are popular treatments for sad. She also says exercise can be as effective as medications while treating depressive disorders, but, you should still see a doctor to determine the best treatment for you.