Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Winter doldrums

It’s icky out. Cold, grey, blah — enough to bum a person out. For some people, winter brings on a case of the blues that warrants a diagnosis: Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you’re noticeably more lethargic, irritable, sad or otherwise distressed this time of year, a trip to your doctor may be in order. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real problem with real treatments, such as light therapy, talk therapy and medication.

What causes it? Reduced levels of sunlight can affect your biological clock and cause you to produce less serotonin, a neurochemical that affects your mood, the Mayo Clinic says on its website. The change of seasons also can throw off your production of melatonin, which affects mood and sleep patterns.

As much as you might want to curl up under a blanket and rest, get outside at least briefly every day for a walk. Exercise and daylight, even on grey days, help fight the winter blues. Sitting by a window also can help.

To read more, check out these columns by Delise Dickard, Healthy Living’s mental health columnist, and Jennifer Motl, our registered dietitian/columnist:

If you’re in need of mental health care, a good local resource for referrals and other information is Mental Health America of Fredericksburg: or 540/371-2704 or toll-free at 800/684-6423.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficult concentrating
  • oversleeping
  • carbohydrate cravings
  • loss of energy
  • social withdrawal