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Winter Blues:

While millions of people suffer from full-blown, clinical SAD there are those who experience similar seasonal symptoms, but to a lower degree of severity. They may experience fall/winter fatigue, “carb” cravings or sleeping difficulties rather than a severe change in mood. Experts estimate that there may be up to 44 million North Americans who suffer from these milder “Winter Blues”.

Symptom onset for the Winter Blues mimics SAD and usually starts mid/late fall and resolves by early May. Light exposure appears to be the key cause for both conditions and symptoms may be less severe some years and stronger in others or the condition may alternate between SAD and the Winter Blues.

Trained, qualified clinicians are the appropriate resources to diagnose a person’s condition. Clinical experience with patients will help to determine whether treatment is needed and what treatment is appropriate. Prior to consulting a healthcare professional, there are tools to help you make a preliminary assessment of your condition that be a resource when consulting with your healthcare provider. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics website –– provides a number of these assessment tools.

The CET confidential Personalized Inventory for SAD on the “Self Assessment” section on their website provides customized feedback and suggested guidance on seeking the help of a clinician. Those who may have SAD should never initiate any type of therapy except under a doctor's supervision to ensure that if things turn worse, your doctor is able to advise on next steps.

Bright Light therapy for the treatment of Winter Blues follows the same treatment protocol used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Though symptoms may be mild, the 10,000 LUX dose of light for 30 minutes soon after waking is recommended starting treatment regimen. For many people, as they gain experience with bright light therapy they can determine if they need to increase or decrease their bright light exposure for optimum response. Some users increase the duration during January and February when symptoms often peak and reduce it as they subside in March and April.

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