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Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Interview With Dr. Shara Sand

Do you always feel deeply depressed during the winter months but feel fine during the summer months? If so you could have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). There are many people who have SAD. According to the National Mental Health Association, " Seasonal Affective Disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans." To help understand SAD and what type of help is available for SAD, I have interviewed Dr. Shara Sand.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. "I am a licensed clinical psychologist in New York State. I also have my doctorate in clinical psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University, Bronx, NY. my Postdoctoral training in Medical Psychology/AIDS was completed at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, NYC. I hold a Master's Degree in Music and my interests in psychology, music, gender and sexuality are an integral part of my work. I have a wide variety of experience as a clinician, teacher, writer and speaker and offer services in several specialty areas. Memberships include the American Psychological Association, the New York State Psychological Association, the Performing Arts Medicine Association, Association for the Study of Dreams, and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at LaGuardia Community College and in Private Practice in New York City."

What is seasonal affective disorder? "Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that impacts people during the winter months in colder, darker northern climates. The depressions only occur in the winter, and often remit on their own in early spring."

What are the signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder? "The symptoms are similar to those of other depressive disorders. Depressed mood, lethargy, irritability, fatigue, decreased attention and concentration are common symptoms. Feeling sad, or experiencing any of these symptoms may be an indication of SAD. There is generally a pattern of depressions that occur in the winter months.

What type of impact does seasonal affective disorder have on a person's life? "Any type of depressions can impact on a person's work life as well as personal life. There is often a decrease in productivity, a withdrawal from relationships, and a lack of interest in activities that one previously enjoyed."

What type of help is available for someone who has seasonal affective disorder? "Phototherapy, or light therapy is the preferred form of treatment. The person administers phototherapy at home. A light box will need to be purchased that has the illumination power of 10, 000 lux. These are available from a number of companies and come in a variety of sizes and costs. The light box should be used daily from October/November to March/April. A person simply sits in front of the light in the morning shortly after waking. The light receptors are at their greatest sensitivity then. Usually 20-30 minutes is enough."

"Psychotherapy can also be helpful in enhancing coping skills and managing the self defeating thoughts that often accompany depression."

What advice would you like to leave for someone who has seasonal affective disorder? "Purchase a light box, it is worth the investment and can greatly enhance one's mood and overall sense of well being. If you don't feel you're getting enough relief, seek out a licensed psychologist or other licensed mental health clinician."

Thank you Dr. Sand for the interview. If you would like more information about Dr. Sand check out her website on

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By Jaleh - JALEH holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling. She is the book author of Making Marriage a Success and Life s Little how to Book which can be...  

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