In most parts of the country, winter is certainly here. The weather is cold and rainy and the days are getting shorter. Some people love it (mostly just in anticipation of snow) but the rest of us will be looking forward to summer in a month or two at the latest. Most of these winter-resenters accept the changing of the seasons as a fact of life – since changing the Earth’s rotation is more than our nation can handle in a recession, we must either grin and bear it or move to Florida.

But 4 to 6 percent of Americans have a genetic disposition for depression and sluggishness catalyzed by the colder, darker days of winter, as brought up by this CNN article. These people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. Symptoms of SAD, according to WebMD, may remind you of hibernation habits:

  • Losing interest in your usual activities.
  • Eating more and craving carbohydrate-based foods, such as bread and pasta.
  • Gaining weight.
  • Sleeping more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

    It’s not just getting in touch with your inner grizzly bear, though, since the disorder also causes depression and mood swings including sadness and anxiety. These symptoms indicate SAD when they occur at about the same time every year, usually late autumn to early winter. Experts believe that shortening days are the prime catalyst, as they can disrupt the Circadian rhythms that help keep the body clock in order.

    If you think you are suffering from winter depression, you should talk with your doctor. If SAD is diagnosed, treatments ranging from light therapy (periodically staying close to a large, bright light) to medication (which should always be taken as directed). Experts also recommend exercising and making the most out of the season by skiing, ice skating and enjoying the holidays.

    Acknowledging and treating SAD is a way to insure your health and happiness throughout the year.