CRANBERRY TWP — Seasonal depression is a very real and prevalent malady that affects more people in Western Pennsylvania than most people think. According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal depression starts off with relatively minor symptoms but can easily progress as winter continues. Some of the symptoms include social withdrawal, oversleeping and weight gain. The clinic said people should seek medical help if they become too downtrodden or if they no longer wish to engage in activities that previously brought them pleasure. Brent Olean, a licensed social worker with the Transformation Counseling Center in Cranberry, said it is common to come across people suffering from seasonal affective disorder. He said phone calls always pick up toward the end of the year and really spike when fall begins turning to winter. The lousy, gray weather familiar to so many people in the region is also coupled with an uptick in stress because of the holidays. These two factors often combine to afflict people with a disorder they didn't even know existed. “The key is to not stay secluded,” Olean said. “You need to get out of the house and surround yourself with loves ones and family. This time of year just seems to be a mad rush. A lot of us lose sight of what's really important, which is our own family.” Olean said the lack of color and sunlight outside can also lead to dampened moods, as can the necessity of shuttering inside during cold spells. “People should stay positive and not focus on what they don't have, but rather what they do have,” he said. “We know the sun goes away every year at this time, but we also know that it is going to come back.” Olean also said staying healthy is a major component to battling seasonal depression. He said long walks outside can alleviate symptoms as well as frequent exercise and proper nutrition. He also urged those afflicted with seasonal depression to engage in a volunteer activity, which often takes the focus off the individual and instead puts it into a group activity. The Mayo Clinic asserted on its website there is no definitive process for preventing seasonal depression, although it can be treated with light therapy, psychotherapy or medication.