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Beating the winter blues - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Beating the winter blues

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Sarah Cutler's favorite time of year-- autumn-- just ended and now she's having to cope with the loss of daylight.

"When it gets dark out at 4 o'clock and I'm in class or at work all day inside, I don't get to spend a lot of time outside. I'm not usually as happy being stuck in the dark all of the time," said Cutler of Burlington.

For some of us, unhappiness can become more serious.

"I love what I do every day," said Evy Smith of Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Smith has been working in the counseling field for more than 20 years. She tells us that this time of year Seasonal Affective Disorder becomes more widespread. Most cases usually develop in people with underlying depression.

"Increased depression symptoms come about, such as increased irritability, increased appetite and a tendency to overeat or oversleep," Smith said.

It's estimated that roughly 10 percent of New Englanders experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"The hypothesis is that it has to do with changes in light; the light coming into our eyes and how it affects our brain chemistry, which then affects our energy levels," Smith said.

Good news though-- the condition can be treated.

"We recommend for people getting outdoors as much as possible and bundling up if it's cold out, but getting out into the natural light if possible," Smith said.

"I try as much as I can to spend time outside and just hang out with people or listen to music that makes me feel a little better," Cutler said.

If getting into natural light isn't a possibility, there are other options.

"We would possibly recommend that they talk to their primary care physician about a prescription for a light box," Smith said.

Sitting in front of a light box for 10 to 20 minutes every morning can cause changes in the brain and help ease symptoms. As a last resort, patients may choose to take an antidepressant.

Cutler's symptoms aren't that serious. And she knows there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"I'm always looking forward to spring," she said.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is most widespread this time of year, but it can set in during the summer with high humidity and cloudy days.

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